OAKLAND Two people can get from Evans Diamond in Berkeley to O.co Coliseum in a little more than 20 minutes, unless they take a more indirect route.
On Wednesday, Tyson Ross of the A's started against Brandon Morrow of the Toronto Blue Jays six years after they were a part of Cal's pitching rotation. Morrow got the better of his former college teammate as the Jays beat the A's 5-2 to end Oakland's three-game winning streak.
Both right-handers called the reunion, believed to be the first major league game started by two former Cal pitchers, "pretty cool."
Morrow hosted Ross during his recruiting visit to the Berkeley campus. Ross, a freshman in 2006, said Morrow, then a junior, was "someone I looked up to."
"He was a good leader on that team," Ross said. "Like with any other pitcher, you just kind of watch and see what they do in certain situations, how they react. He's always been really level-headed out there, and I try to adapt that into my game as much as I can."
Both said the potential of pitching against or alongside each other in the big leagues was not breached during their one college season together.
"I'm just happy we're in the American League and I didn't have to get in there and actually hit," Ross said.
Oakland's hitters can probably relate after striking out 10 times in six innings against Morrow, including five times on called third strikes. All nine A's hitters struck out at least once, and 10 men were left on base by Oakland.
Morrow walked four batters, which drove his pitch count up, but he allowed just one run on a Jonny Gomes RBI single in the fifth. That snapped Morrow's streak of 23 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a career high.
Ross matched zeroes with Morrow until the fourth inning. With a runner on second, Ross struck out Colby Rasmus, after which A's catcher Anthony Recker popped up and headed for the dugout. Problem was, there were only two outs. The next batter, Adam Lind, hit a two-run home run to right field to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
The Blue Jays added another run in the sixth when Brett Lawrie doubled and scored on a Rasmus single, knocking Ross out of the game. Ross, though, said his outing was a "step in the right direction" after having allowed a combined 16 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in his previous two starts.
A's manager Bob Melvin said he also saw progress, and that Ross, who has a 7.71 ERA, appeared to find a rhythm on the mound that had been missing.
"He's trying to stay on his back leg a little bit longer, get a little bit more push and try to find a rhythm that works for him where his arm slot's in a certain place to repeat his delivery," Melvin said. "I think he saw some results in that today."
Meanwhile, the A's received some positive news about outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who was scratched from the lineup Tuesday night because of soreness in his left hand.
Melvin said Cespedes has a strained muscle, not a fracture, in the back of his hand and is day-to-day.
Cespedes, who was in uniform Wednesday, said he first felt pain in the hand six days ago in Boston and that it returned during batting practice Tuesday. He had an X-ray on Wednesday that showed the strain.