There was speculation leading into Rich Hill’s start Sunday that it could be his last for the A’s. The left-hander is a popular name on the midseason trade market.
Before the game, a gaggle of scouts prepared to evaluate Hill’s outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Soon, those scouts were shaking their heads at the irony. Hill left the A’s 5-3 loss after throwing five pitches when a blister opened on his pitching hand. It’s now unclear when Hill will pitch next, for any team.
Hill was scheduled to start last Friday and was scratched because of the blister, but he threw a bullpen session and said the finger was OK. After delivering a 3-1 fastball to Toronto leadoff hitter Devon Travis, though, he quickly called a trainer to the mound and left without throwing another pitch.
“It came wide open,” Hill said of the blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. “I just felt it on the fastball, looked down, and it was bleeding.
“It’s just disappointing, I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s disappointing that that popped up again. That’s really all I can say.”
Hill said his finger was still “pretty raw” after the game, and he does not know how long it will take “to let that skin come back and heal.”
“We’ll have to give him some time,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Not sure how long yet.”
Andrew Triggs replaced Hill and retired Travis on a flyout before Josh Donaldson hit a line drive back up the middle that struck Triggs’ left calf and bounced away for a single. Triggs finished the inning, allowing an unearned run when Edwin Encarnacion’s single to left field bounced under Khris Davis’ glove, letting Donaldson score.
But Triggs, the A’s designated long reliever, did not return for the second inning, further complicating the pitching situation. Already knowing he did not have Ryan Dull or Ryan Madson available for the later innings because of workload, Melvin brought in Tuesday’s scheduled starter, Sean Manaea, to start the second.
“I’m sure he didn’t come to the ballpark thinking, ‘You know, I might pitch today,’ ” Melvin said. “Pitchers typically have quite a routine to get ready for a start, with the stretching and what they do. But he was ready quick and other than one pitch, pitched well.”
That one pitch was an 0-2 fastball to Troy Tulowitzki that the Blue Jays shortstop hit for a two-run homer in the fourth. Still, Manaea gave the A’s five innings on 69 pitches – and left with the score tied.
“Pretty tough. I’ve never done that before,” Manaea said. “It was a crazy overall game.”
Oakland evened it in the sixth on Marcus Semien’s solo homer – his 20th of the season – and a two-run pinch-hit double by Yonder Alonso off former A’s reliever Jesse Chavez. The A’s had a chance for more, but Matt McBride popped out to leave the bases loaded, and the score remained tied until the ninth.
Toronto’s Justin Smoak hit a slow chopper up the third-base line for a single off John Axford with the A’s playing a shift, and Junior Lake followed with a broken-bat single. Axford struck out Devon Travis, but Donaldson, the reigning American League MVP and former A’s third baseman, roped a double to left, scoring both runners and eliciting chants of “MVP!”
“I don’t think it would’ve mattered if I got the ball in more, he probably with his strength would’ve pushed a flare over the top of the infield,” Axford said. “Just happened to be a good swing he put on that ball.”
The A’s missed a chance to sweep the Blue Jays and must fill Manaea’s rotation spot Tuesday against the Astros. They could call up Dillon Overton from Triple-A Nashville, who last pitched Monday and has made two starts this season for the A’s.
“After losing two pitchers in the first inning, with a limited bullpen to start, I thought we played pretty well and responded pretty well,” Melvin said. “All in all, it was a nice little fight to the end.”