Oakland Athletics Gladly Say Adieu to Canada, and Josh Donaldson

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Apr 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) gets hit with a pitch during the sixth inning in a game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) gets hit with a pitch during the sixth inning in a game against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oakland Athletics’ Starters Can’t Contain Toronto Blue Jays’ Lineup

The Oakland Athletics went up to Canada over the weekend and dropped two of three games. The Toronto Blue Jays have a tough lineup – they have four sluggers that can do a great deal of damage. Troy Tulowitzki was slumping when the A’s came to town, but on Saturday, he snapped out of it with two home runs. Edwin Encarnacion did not do too much damage (I know because he’s on my fantasy team!) and Jose Bautista was held in check until the fourth inning of Sunday’s game. But it was Josh Donaldson, the league MVP, who did the most damage on Saturday and Sunday.

In fact, Donaldson’s three-run homer in the bottom of the second in Saturday’s game might have been the biggest blow of the whole series.

The A’s had won six games in a row. Sonny Gray had been strong and steady on Friday night. The Jays managed to score five runs, but the A’s put up eight runs of their own to win pretty easily.

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The next day, Mark Canha hit a home run in the top of the first to give the A’s a short-lived lead. It seemed as if the A’s could do no wrong, but then things fell apart. The Blue Jays sent eight batters to the plate and scored two runs in the bottom of the first. In the bottom of the second, Donaldson stepped to the plate with runners at second and third. He hit a mammoth home run, and the rout was on. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, A’s relief pitcher, Liam Hendriks nailed Donaldson in the leg. Hendriks was a former teammate of Donaldson last year and, after the game he claimed that the ball slipped. He said Donaldson was a “great teammate and a great guy.”

I admire Josh Donaldson a lot, but I would not mind if Hendriks was trying to send a message. Donaldson is a tremendous hitter and a very good defender. He plays with abandon. Donaldson always swings very hard. (Ray Fosse, however, made the point during the broadcast that Donaldson swings hard but under control.) All he thinks about is driving the ball. I would not blame a pitcher at all if he wanted to put another thought in Donaldson’s mind. Maybe a 95 mph fastball under his chin might take away some of his ferocious aggression. Though I would personally never want to see a player get hurt, I could see a pitcher utilizing a purpose pitch to put a little fear in the batter’s mind.

Whether Hendriks was throwing at Donaldson or not, J.A. Happ did not hesitate to drill Khris Davis right in the ribs when he was leading off the top of the seventh for the A’s.

Davis sent a message of his own on Sunday, with a deep home run to right center. That was one of the few bright spots on Sunday. The A’s actually hit more home runs than the Blue Jays in that game, but unfortunately, they were all solo shots. The power hitting seems to be coming on at last, but now the starting pitching is looking a little shaky. Sonny Gray pitched a gem on Friday, but he ended up giving up three earned runs. Chris Bassitt had no success on Saturday, and Eric Surkamp struggled on Sunday.

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A’s fans should not be too worried. The Blue Jays are going to make a lot of pitching staffs look shaky. Perhaps the best thing about Sunday’s game was that it is the last time the A’s have to play in Toronto in 2016. (Unless the teams meet in the playoffs, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.) The A’s are 1-8 in their last nine games north of the border.

Now the A’s move on to take on a struggling Detroit. The Athletics need just one more win to break even on the road trip, and two more wins to come home with an above-.500 record. Four wins, though, would mean the A’s come home in first place…

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