TORONTO — Pressed into service on short rest after a pair of abbreviated outings, Francisco Liriano gave the Blue Jays the strong start they sorely needed.
Liriano pitched five innings to win for the first time in three starts, Russell Martin homered and Toronto beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2 on Monday night, snapping a three-game losing streak.
After pitching a combined 3 2/3 innings in his previous two starts, Liriano (6-5) returned on three days rest, moving up a day to take the turn of injured righty Aaron Sanchez (blister). Liriano allowed two runs and two hits, walked two and struck out five.
Liriano walked the first two batters he faced but caught a break when catcher Martin threw out Rajai Davis trying to steal third. Ryon Healy followed with an RBI single, but Liriano set down the next 12 straight before Matt Chapman’s solo homer in the fifth.
“I sort of kept my poise and tried to control the damage,” Liriano said through a translator. “In the first inning I was a little bit rough but I threw some strikes and it worked out well after that.”
Unsure how Liriano would handle the assignment, manager John Gibbons appreciated the solid showing.
“He settled in, gave us what we needed,” Gibbons said. “I was a little worried he was going on short rest but he did his job and set it up for the rest of the bullpen.”
Joe Biagini pitched two innings, Ryan Tepera worked a perfect eighth and Roberto Osuna struck out the side in the ninth for his 25th save in 29 chances.
Oakland, which had just two hits, lost for the third time in four games.
“It’s going to be tough to score enough runs to win a game with that,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of the meagre output.
Melvin said Liriano showed a better fastball after the first, and Healy agreed that the Blue Jays left-hander looked sharper.
“He was attacking the zone more,” Healy said. “He was missing his spots early in the game and we were taking advantage of it. As the game progressed, he got more comfortable and started hitting his spots.”
Oakland right-hander Chris Smith (0-1) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings.
Martin snapped an 0 for 10 slump in the first with his 10th home run and eighth solo blast.
Toronto made it 3-1 in the fourth on bases loaded singles by Carrera and Ryan Goins.
Chapman’s homer was his third in three days.
“That ball was hit pretty good,” Melvin said. “We know he’s got some power. Each and every day it seems like he’s getting more comfortable here.”
Oakland has lost nine of 10 in Toronto.
The Athletics were a player short Monday because RHP Frankie Montas was forced to remain in New York because of visa issues following Oakland’s weekend series against the Mets. Montas is expected to rejoin the Athletics in time for Tuesday’s game.
One week ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins acknowledged his team’s fading fortunes. “A month ago we were talking about the need for our team to play well and to get hot and we haven’t done that,” Atkins said. “Now we’re in a position where it’s a lot more difficult to add to a team like this. We feel like we have underperformed and underachieved offensively and defensively.”
Martin reached double digits in home runs for the seventh consecutive season. Seven of his 10 homers this year have either tied the score or given Toronto a lead.
Fresh off his runner up finish at the British Open, PGA golfer Matt Kuchar and his family watched from the field while the Blue Jays took batting practice. They later met Jays 3B Josh Donaldson, an avid golfer.
Athletics: Oakland recalled RHP Josh Smith from Triple-A Nashville and optioned OF Matt Olson to Triple-A. … RHP Kendal Graveman (shoulder) allowed seven runs, three earned, in three innings in a rehab stint for Nashville Monday. Melvin said Graveman will make at least one more rehab start.
Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki (groin) returned after sitting out the previous two games. … DH Kendrys Morales got the day off. … Toronto acquired INF/OF Rob Refsnyder from the New York Yankees Sunday in exchange for Double-A 1B Ryan McBroom. Refnsyder will report to Triple-A Buffalo. … Also Sunday, Toronto traded cash to Minnesota for RHP Nick Tepesch.
Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray (6-4, 3.66) is 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA over his past five starts. Gray is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five career starts against Toronto.
Blue Jays: RHP Cesar Valdez (0-0, 2.70) makes his first start for Toronto. Valdez was pitching for the Athletics when he made his lone previous start this season, pitching four innings against Seattle on April 20.
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