Oakland A's

Blue Jays hit three homers, win 7-1 in Donaldson’s return to Coliseum

Oakland Athletics' Kendall Graveman kicks the mound after giving up a three-run home run to Toronto Blue Jays' Russell Martin during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Oakland, Calif.
Oakland Athletics' Kendall Graveman kicks the mound after giving up a three-run home run to Toronto Blue Jays' Russell Martin during the sixth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. AP

OAKLAND -- Talking about his new Blue Jays teammates before Tuesday’s game, Josh Donaldson described the Toronto lineup as "pretty dangerous … We have some guys that can leave the yard in a hurry."

If the A’s didn’t know already, they found out first-hand Tuesday night. The Blue Jays hit three home runs off Oakland right-hander Kendall Graveman, handing the A’s a 7-1 loss in Donaldson’s return to the Coliseum.

Edwin Encarnacion led off the second inning with a solo homer against Graveman, who later allowed a solo shot to Jose Bautista in the sixth and, three batters later, a three-run homer to Russell Martin that knocked Graveman out of the game.

It was the 12th game of three or more homers this season for the Blue Jays, who eclipsed the 500-run mark in their 95th game, becoming the quickest team to do so since the 2011 Boston Red Sox (94).

Donaldson was a little late to the scoring party, but contributed an RBI double that gave the Blue Jays a 7-1 lead in the seventh inning. All night, Donaldson had stepped to home plate to loud ovations from the Coliseum crowd, which remembered with fondness his contributions to the A’s from 2012-14.

Donaldson said it "was nice to feel appreciated," and that he settled down over the course of the game after being "a little amped up" early on. "It’s unfamiliar territory," he said. "I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was very grateful for how they treated me today."

Before the game, Donaldson said, he got a chance to catch up with former teammates and coaches, including A’s manager Bob Melvin, who heard all about Donaldson’s two-hour cab ride to the stadium Tuesday afternoon.

"I told him that was his fault," Melvin said with a grin.

After going hitless in his first three at-bats -- and making a throwing error in the third inning -- Donaldson doubled in his last two trips to the plate. He said that aside from the applause, a few fans also got in some good-natured ribbing.

"I don’t know if I can repeat it," Donaldson said, "but it was nice to just have some interaction with people who’ve kind of seen me grow up throughout the (A’s) system. To be able to come back, and obviously have a different uniform on but still come out and play -- a lot of people in that locker room over there had a lot to do with where I’m at today, and I’m very grateful for that."

Chief among those people is A’s third-base and infielders’ coach Mike Gallego, who was in close proximity to Donaldson in the third-base coaching box for much of the night. But Donaldson said they didn’t get too far into conversation once the game started. Nor did he and A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie -- who was part of the trade sending Donaldson to Toronto -- talk much when Donaldson reached third base in the later innings.

"He just said, ‘Hey what’s up.’ And I was like, ‘What’s up,’" Donaldson said. "There wasn’t really much going on.

"(Gallego) is probably one of the best people in my life. But when I’m in the game, it’s game time and he knows that. We talk every now and then, but when first pitch starts -- friends, family, if it was my mom, I’m going to tackle my mom. I’m going to try to take her out of I have to."

That all-out playing style helped endear Donaldson to A’s fans during his time in Oakland. From his reception Tuesday night, it was clear that they hadn’t forgotten.

* Graveman was also part of the Donaldson trade, but said Tuesday night he didn’t feel any extra motivation pitching against the organization that traded him.

Nor did Graveman say his long layoff due to the All-Star Break -- 10 days -- affected him negatively Tuesday. But the sinker-baller left a handful of pitches up -- particularly in the sixth inning -- and the Blue Jays’ sluggers took advantage.

"They did a good job being patient, some pitches that were around the zone they laid off of and then when I missed up in the zone that’s when I got hurt," Graveman said. "I just gotta keep being stubborn and continue to pound the baseball down in the bottom of the zone, and try to get my ground balls."

Graveman hadn’t allowed more than four runs in a start since April 25 against Houston -- right before he was sent down to Triple-A for a month -- and Melvin said Tuesday was "just not one of his better nights."

"Looked like early on he had a lot of good movement, was keeping the ball on the ground like he does," Melvin said. "Obviously gave up some home runs, but it didn’t really look like they were balls up in the zone, it looked like they went down and at least got a couple of them."

After a run of seven consecutive quality starts, Graveman has allowed 10 runs over his last two outings while failing to complete the sixth both times. He indicated, though, that he felt his issues against the Blue Jays -- who became the first team to hit three home runs off Graveman in the majors -- were specific to Tuesday night.

"I’ve still got to sink the ball in the bottom of the zone -- it’s hard to get a ball elevated when you’re throwing sinkers in the bottom," he said. "I didn’t execute the plan that I had going in, so I had to pay for that."

* Mark Buehrle is 36 years old and in his 16th big-league season, but he’s still working fast, pounding the strike zone and getting hitters out with movement and deception. He didn’t throw a pitch above 85 miles per hour all night. He threw a couple of curveballs that registered at 69 mph. The Blue Jays left-hander allowed eight hits, but only one for extra bases, and he held the A’s lineup to one run in seven innings on Jake Smolinski’s RBI triple in the sixth.

"A lot of times early on he tries to establish in with his cutter and his fastball," Melvin said. "Even though he doesn’t throw very hard, he moves you back off the plate. And then he’s able to throw his changeup, slow you down with his breaking ball and throw his sinker away."

A tried and true formula for Buehrle, it’s still working. Tuesday marked his ninth straight start of at least six innings with two or fewer earned runs allowed, a new Blue Jays record -- he had been tied with Dave Stieb and Roger Clemens at eight. Since June 1, Buehrle has a 1.52 ERA, and for the season he’s 11-5 with a 3.23 mark.

"When he’s on, he’s really tough to think along with, not only pitch selection but which side of the plate he’s pitching to," Melvin said. "He’s not a young guy anymore, but you look at his numbers and he’s pitching like a young guy.

* After beating former teammate Tommy Milone on Sunday, the A’s dropped another game to a left-handed starter in Buehrle and are now 6-18 when opponents start a lefty this season. They’ll face another one Wednesday in Toronto’s Felix Doubront (1-0, 4.50), while sending their ace Sonny Gray (10-4, 2.29) to the mound. First pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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