Athletics wear down Blue Jays, spoiling Semien’s return to Oakland

Athletics wear down Blue Jays, spoiling Semien’s return to Oakland thumbnail

TORONTO – Josh Donaldson’s first trip back to Oakland after the Athletics dealt him to the Toronto Blue Jays was a big deal in the summer of 2015. There was a buzz at the Coliseum, as baseball’s worst stadium was known then, a huge throng of media waiting for the star third baseman as he arrived, and grateful cheers from the crowd each time he came to the plate. A pair of doubles with an RBI for Donaldson helped deliver a 7-1 victory.

Marcus Semien, just 24 at the time and in his first full season as an everyday shortstop, noticed the fuss and still remembers that day, along with the return of Yoenis Cespedes that year, well.

“Those were the two fan favourites on those teams. You always heard about it,” said Semien, acquired from the Chicago White Sox for Jeff Samardzija about two weeks after Donaldson was dealt. “You talk to A’s fans and they were really hurt by losing Cespedes and Donaldson. I’m pretty sure Donaldson did some damage in that series, too. That’s something everyone wants to do when they come back to their old team, have a good series. It’s funny, you see some guys get booed, some guys get cheered. It’s just part of the game.”

Semien was one of the guys who got cheered when he completed the lifecycle of an Athletics star player Monday by returning with a team willing to pay him market value. He had a quieter first night back than Donaldson, but still saw 30 pitches while collecting a walk in the second, bases-loaded flyout in the third, single in the sixth and strikeout with the tying run at second in the eighth inning of a 5-4 Blue Jays loss. Two pitches before his flyout, Semien ripped a fastball over the left-field wall mere feet foul, a swing that nearly wrote a far different tale.

Steven Matz provided five innings for a beat-up pitching staff but also gave up all five runs in an outing where in many ways he outpitched the results. The damage came on consecutive doubles to Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie ahead of Stephen Piscotty’s homer in the third, and a two-run homer to Ramon Laureano in the fifth that put Oakland up 5-3.

Even as he struck out six, he had runners on every inning, and his lone walk, a leadoff pass to Tony Kemp, preceded the go-ahead home run. But he did enough to ensure Anthony Kay wouldn’t be needed, making him available to start Tuesday night.

As has been their way, the Blue Jays grinded this one out. A string of five hits in six batters in the third highlighted by Bo Bichette’s RBI single and a two-run single by Teoscar Hernandez off Frankie Montas.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., ripped a leadoff double off Lou Trivino in the eighth and eventually scored on a wild pitch during Semien’s seven-pitch strikeout. Joe Panik flew out soon after to end the frame.

The Blue Jays were without George Springer, who left Sunday’s game with what the club called quad fatigue but sat Monday as part of what manager Charlie Montoyo called an “already planned” rest day. Asked if he might be available to pinch hit, Montoyo said that would depend on how his pre-game batting practice went, but added his goal was to give the star outfielder a full day of rest.

A pinch-hit moment arose in the ninth when Danny Jansen came up, but Springer remained on the bench in his hoodie as the catcher struck out against Jake Diekman.

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