OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Carlos Pérez broke out of a lengthy batting slump with a two-run homer off Hyun Jin Ryu and the Oakland Athletics avoided a three-game sweep by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 on Wednesday.
It was a milestone day for Ryu. The 36-year-old left-hander threw 77 pitches in his seventh start after beginning the season in the minors. That’s one more start than Ryu had in 2022, when his season was cut short in June due to Tommy John surgery.
“He’s been pitching a long time for a reason,” said Oakland's Kevin Smith, who had an infield single in two at-bats against Ryu. “He’s going to get you out, he’s going to throw his good pitches. He has some funky stuff, just the way that his change-up moves. He’s not going to overpower you, but he’s going to throw it where he wants. If he’s spotting up, it’s going to be a hard day.”
Pérez’s sixth home run of the season ended a 5-for-27 skid and accounted for the only A’s runs scored off Ryu (3-2), who allowed five hits and had five strikeouts with one walk. The loss was his first since Aug. 1, when he made his season debut.
Smith, called up from the minors before the game, added a three-run homer off Trevor Richards for the A’s. Oakland had lost two straight to the Blue Jays after sweeping Shohei Ohtani and the Angels to begin its homestand.
“It feels great,” said Smith, who is in his third stint with the A’s big league club this season. “Especially when you come up, you want to try to make as early of a contribution that you can. Obviously, I haven’t as well as I’ve wanted to when I’m up here. You have to make some contributions or you’re going to find yourself back down. “
Davis Schneider homered for Toronto. The Blue Jays started the day with a half-game lead over the Rangers for the third AL wild-card spot.
“We don’t really have too many games left,” Ryu said through a translator. “I’m not speaking just for myself. Every game’s going to be very important for us moving on, and we need more wins than ever.”
A’s starter JP Sears (4-11) pitched five uneven innings and earned his first win since July 28. Sears, who leads the majors in hit batters, worked around four walks and allowed four hits and one run.
“I don’t know if he had his best stuff today, but that’s the competitor that we talked about,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “Really not his best command probably, but really managed the game and walked off the mound with a 2-1 lead. That’s all you can ask, really.”
Ryu began the game by retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced before running into trouble in the fourth, despite a great defensive play by first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
After Ryan Noda reached on a fielder’s choice, Pérez slammed a 2-2 fastball into the left field stands.
Pérez was also part of Oakland’s three-run sixth, when he and Jordan Diaz opened the inning with consecutive singles against Richards. Smith followed with his fifth home run, and first since June 11.
Sears pitched well enough to win, but the pitching highlight for the A’s was the return of top pitching prospect Mason Miller, who missed 105 games with a right forearm strain. Miller had three strikeouts and threw 27 pitches in two hitless innings.
“Mason looked great. The juices were definitely flowing,” Kotsay said. “Injuries have been a part of his career, and to see him overcome it this year, get back on the mound ... his last pitch of the game was (a 102.4 mph fastball), and he asked to go back out.”
Dany Jiménez followed Miller and allowed one run in one inning. Trevor May retired three batters in the ninth and picked up his 18th save.
Guerrero is obviously well known for his bat, but the slugger is pretty good defensively as well, evidenced by his 2022 Gold Glove. Guerrero flashed some of that talent in the fourth inning against the A’s. With a runner at second in the fourth, Guerrero stabbed Ryan Noda’s sharp liner and then threw across the diamond to get Brent Rooker sliding into third. Replays showed Guerrero smiling and taping his gloved hand after making the play.
Athletics: RHP Devin Sweet was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento and LHP Easton Lucas was selected from Las Vegas. LHP Sam Long and RHP Zach Neal were optioned to Las Vegas. RHP Spencer Patton was designated for assignment.
Blue Jays: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (9-5, 3.63 ERA) faces the Royals on Friday. Kikuchi got the win against Kansas City in his first start of the season April 4.
Athletics: RHP Paul Blackburn (4-4, 3.81) faces the Rangers on Friday seeking his first win in five career starts against Texas.
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb
Michael Wagaman, The Associated Press