Wild-card-contending Blue Jays, A’s open big series

MLB Baseball

The Toronto Blue Jays are chasing three teams in the American League wild-card race, and they open a three-game series against one of them, the visiting Oakland Athletics, on Friday night.

The Blue Jays (70-62) are three games behind the Athletics (74-60), who trail the Boston Red Sox by two games for the second wild-card spot.

The Athletics held on to defeat the Detroit Tigers 8-6 on Thursday in the rubber match of a three-game series. The Blue Jays had Thursday off after defeating the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 on Wednesday to win that series 2-1.

“Every game matters. Doesn’t matter how you get it done; we want to be a team that can win any kind of way,” said Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien, who hit his 33rd home run of the season on Wednesday to match his career high.

“Early in the year, a lot of big blowouts, the run differential was huge, but none of that matters now, just getting the W. Sometimes it takes a big play in the end, sometimes you jump on them early; however we can do it, we’ve got to do it.”

Semien played for the Athletics before joining the Blue Jays this season as a free agent.

The teams split a four-game series in Oakland, May 3-6.

Right-hander Alek Manoah (5-2, 3.15 ERA) will face the Athletics for the first time in his career on Friday. He has 86 strikeouts, the most by a Blue Jay after 14 career appearances.

The rookie will oppose left-hander Sean Manaea (8-9, 3.97 ERA), who was 0-3 with a 9.90 ERA in five August starts. He is 2-7 with a 5.28 ERA over his past 12 outings after going 6-2 with a 2.99 ERA in his first 14 starts.

Manaea is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against the Blue Jays. He has not faced them since Aug. 1, 2018, when he allowed one run in six innings at Oakland to earn the win.

Since they started a 3-6 road trip on Aug. 10 with a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels, the Blue Jays have batted .247/.319/.408 and gone 10-12. They hit .265/.328/.458 for the first 110 games of the season.

“I think late in the year, there’s more of a book on us; teams attack us a certain way,” Semien said. “We’re going to have to understand how they’re attacking us here in September and make adjustments.”

The Athletics had to use their bullpen more than they wanted on Thursday. What had been an 8-0 lead shrunk to 8-6 after Deolis Guerra allowed Jeimer Candelario’s three-run home run in the seventh.

Andrew Chafin got the final out of the seventh and tossed a scoreless eighth inning. Sergio Romo pitched the ninth to earn the save.

“Our bullpen has been good all year,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re being taxed at this point. We have less guys available from day to day, and a good guy who has been available for us gave up some runs.

“We didn’t want to have to use Chafin and Romo, but when they came in, they nailed the game down. So I’d rather look at it that way.”

Khris Davis was 2-for-3 with an RBI double Thursday in his first game with the Athletics this season.

–Field Level Media

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