Until the eighth inning of Saturday’s matinee in Toronto, the Oakland Athletics looked as though they’d have to settle for at best a series split with the host Blue Jays.
Starter Sean Manaea had allowed four runs in the fifth, and the A’s were cowed by Toronto starter Sam Gaviglio. Then came the eighth.
With two outs, Chad Pinder slugged his first career grand slam, giving Oakland the lead for good in a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays, guaranteeing a series victory and a winning road trip.
Last season, the A’s got four go-ahead grand slams (with the last coming from Jed Lowrie on Sept. 19, 2017), and had six overall.
Until that eighth inning, though, it had been a frustrating affair for Oakland, with Gio Urshela giving Toronto (22-24) the lead with a two-run homer in the fifth. The Blue Jays added on with a Yangervis Solarte RBI double and a Kevin Pillar sac fly.
Offensively, the first seven innings were quiet for the A’s as Gaviglio utilized great command and a generous strike zone from home plate umpire Shane Livensparger. Oakland’s one major threat came in the sixth when Khris Davis doubled and Matt Olson walked with one out. Gaviglio was then replaced by Seunghwan Oh, who got Stephen Piscotty to fly out before issuing a walk to Dustin Fowler. With the bases loaded, Oh got Jonathan Lucroy to ground out harmlessly to end the inning.
The eighth was a different story as Oakland (24-22) teed off on a pair of former A’s relievers. John Axford walked Matt Chapman, Davis singled and Piscotty broke the shutout with a one-out single. Tyler Clippard came in and got Fowler to fly out to center, but after Jed Lowrie worked a pinch-hit walk, Pinder came to the plate and delivered an opposite-field blast to stun the Canadian fans and put the visitors in front.
Emilio Pagan — who pitched two scoreless innings in his first appearance since returning from Triple-A Nashville — got the win in relief. He reached 96 on the radar gun as he worked around a leadoff double in the sixth and a one-out walk in the seventh. After the A’s took the lead, Lou Trivino took care of the eighth, allowing a two-out walk to Dwight Smith Jr. before getting pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson to pop out. Blake Treinen picked up his 10th save, walking Justin Smoak on a close pitch that could have ended the game. Undeterred, he struck out Solarte on three pitches to end it.
Gaviglio allowed one walk and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out six. Manaea five hits and three walks while only striking out two.