Toronto, ON (Sports Network) – Rich Harden tossed seven strong innings and Josh Willingham belted the go-ahead two-run homer as Oakland topped Toronto, 4-1, in the opener of a three-game set from Rogers Centre. Harden (3-2) matched his longest outing of the season, yielding just five hits and one run with two walks while fanning eight.
“I finished stronger than when I started,” Harden said
Andrew Bailey turned in a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save. Kurt Suzuki also homered and Ryan Sweeney added an RBI single for the Athletics, who have won three straight to shake off the memory of four consecutive losses.
Edwin Encarnacion collected two hits including a solo shot for the Blue Jays, who have lost four of six. Brett Cecil (4-5) was touched in defeat for three runs on four hits over seven frames.
“Brett threw the ball well enough to put us in a position to win,” Jays manager John Farrell said.
The Blue Jays welcomed Langley, British Columbia native Brett Lawrie with a standing ovation when the Toronto third baseman came to bat in the second inning. Lawrie, who went 0-for-3, in his first home game as a major league player. Harden, another BC native, fanned Lawrie in the second.
Trailing by a run and stifled by Cecil through the first five innings, Cliff Pennington singled to start the sixth and two batters later, Willingham cleared the left-field wall for a 2-1 A’s edge. Suzuki launched a Cecil offering deep into the second deck in left to start the Oakland seventh to make it a two-run lead, then Sweeney drove in David DeJesus — who was hit by a pitch — for a 4-1 contest in the ninth. Bailey issued a leadoff walk to Encarnacion in Toronto’s terminal at-bat, but locked down the victory by retiring the next three batters.
Encarnacion’s 10th home run of the season barely cleared the wall in left to start the second and give Toronto a 1-0 lead. Cecil had retired the first eight men he faced then stranded two A’s in scoring position in the third.
Harden also worked seven innings but did not factor into the decision in a 4-3 Oakland win against the Angels on July 16…Cecil lost for the first time since July 5…Prior to the game, the Jays sent pitcher Wil Ledezman outright to Triple-A Las Vegas and purchased the contract of pitcher Henderson Alvarez from Double-A New Hampshire.