Athletics go for four-game sweep of Blue Jays

TORONTO — The Oakland Athletics, who were swept in a four-game series last season at the Rogers Centre, have a chance for a total turnaround during this year’s visit.

The Athletics came back to defeat the Blue Jays 5-4 on Saturday afternoon powered by Chad Pinder’s first career grand slam in a five-run eighth inning.

The A’s have won the first three games of the four-game series and will go for their first-ever four-game sweep in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

The Athletics are 8-2 in one-run games, the highest winning percentage in the majors this season. Athletics manager Bob Melvin gives credit to a winning environment created by a blend of young, hungry players and veterans.

“They don’t want to lose,” Melvin said. “Our best at-bats come late in games. We’ve done really well in one-run games this year because these guys put together really good at-bats late in the game.”

The A’s will start right-hander Daniel Mengden (3-4, 3.75 ERA) in the series finale against Blue Jays right-hander Joe Biagini (0-2, 7.98) who is winless at Toronto and at Triple-A Buffalo this season.

Mengden is 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA in his past seven starts after going 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA in his first two starts. He had a no-decision in his only career start against the Blue Jays, allowing seven runs (six earned), six hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings on July 15, 2016, a game won 8-7 by the A’s in Oakland.

Biagini is running out of chances to avoid a return to the bullpen, where he has had most of his success. This will be his fourth start for Toronto this season. In four starts at Buffalo, he is 0-3 with a 4.57 ERA. In 21 career starts in the majors, he is 2-14 with a 6.05 ERA.

He has two career outings against Oakland, allowing two walks and striking out one in 2 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays (22-24) have dropped two games below .500 for the first time since March 30 after they loss their first two games of the year to the New York Yankees.

The Athletics (24-22) are two games above the break-even point for the fourth time this season and the first time since they were 18-16 on May 6.

They have won three straight games at the Rogers Centre for the first time since 2011-2012, and it is their first series win there since they won three of four Aug. 9-12, 2013. They are 4-12 in their past 16 games on visits to Toronto.

The Blue Jays are falling fast.

They took a 4-0 lead with a four-run fifth inning Saturday and the situation looked promising for them after fill-in starter Sam Gaviglio pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings.

Instead, Toronto has its third three-game losing streak of May. The Blue Jays are 11-14 at home.

“We’re close,” said Blue Jays reliever Tyler Clippard, who gave up Pinder’s grand slam. “When you go through these stretches, it tests your character as a ballclub and we understand that as a baseball season goes these stretches happen. We’ve got to do our best to limit the damage right now and kind of put all this stuff behind us, move forward and start playing some good baseball. We’re close.”

The Athletics have won the first three games of the series despite injury setbacks.

First-game starter Andrew Triggs left the game with nerve irritation in his right forearm and was put on the disabled list.

Second-game starter Brett Anderson left his start after the first inning with a strained left shoulder and also went on the DL.

“We’ll see how he responds in the coming days,” Melvin said. “Hopefully, we caught it sooner, and he was smart enough to know not to push it and come out.”

Right-handed reliever Ryan Dull, who had been optioned to Triple-A Nashville on Friday, was recalled Saturday. He had never left Toronto.