Athletics-Blue Jays Preview
The Oakland Athletics' rebuilding project appears well ahead of schedule.
Winners of six straight and still unbeaten on the road, the surprising A's look to extend the Toronto Blue Jays' unexpected early struggles when the teams continue a three-game series Saturday.
After reaching the playoffs in three straight seasons from 2012-14, Oakland (10-7) seemed far away from its next postseason trip after losing an AL-high 94 games in 2015 and dropping seven of 11 to begin this year. It's bounced back with its longest winning streak since July 2014 and is one away from its best run since winning nine straight from April 3-12, 2013.
The surge has mainly been led by a pitching staff that's posted a 2.25 ERA during the streak, though it was the bats that carried Oakland to an 8-5 victory in Friday's opener. Chris Coghlan hit a three-run homer in the second inning and Khris Davis added a key single that scored two in the ninth to help the A's move to 8-0 on the road for the first time since 1990.
"We're getting contributions throughout,'' said manager Bob Melvin, whose team recorded season highs in runs and hits (14). ''That's what we envisioned to be the strength of our offense, the length of it.''
Oakland, 10-23 against the AL East last season, is 4-0 versus the division on a 10-game trip it opened with a sweep of the New York Yankees.
Toronto (8-10) has lost three straight and continues to receive inconsistent production from an offense that easily led the majors with 891 runs scored in 2015. Batting a collective .228, the unit was dealt another blow when first baseman Chris Colabello was suspended 80 games Friday for testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
''It's obviously a very difficult situation,'' Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. ''My initial reaction was empathy, extreme disappointment. The combination of the two because of what it means to our team and what it means to him.''
Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson is 3 for 18 over the last five games and Russell Martin is hitting .146 with 22 strikeouts in 48 at-bats. Martin exited Friday's game after five innings with neck spasms and Troy Tulowitzki - off to a 9 for 60 start - was held out of the lineup.
Toronto has received its money's worth from J.A. Happ (2-0, 1.89 ERA), who's delivered three solid starts in his return to the Blue Jays. Happ earned his second straight win by limiting Boston to a run and four hits over seven-plus innings on Monday.
Happ has had past success against Oakland, 1-3 against left-handed starters thus far. He is 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA in five starts and defeated the A's twice with Seattle last season.
Josh Reddick is 1 for 9 with four strikeouts against Happ but owns a .323 average with seven home runs in 17 games at Rogers Centre. Marcus Semien is 7 for 10 with a home run off Happ but just 3 for 26 on the road this season.
After halting a six-game skid in Toronto on Friday, Oakland hopes to give Chris Bassitt (0-0, 2.79) some additional support. The right-hander has yielded two earned runs and eight hits in 14 innings over two consecutive no-decisions in which the A's have scored three runs with him on the mound.
Bassitt held Kansas City to two runs through seven innings in Oakland's 3-2 win Sunday.