RHP Bowden Francis posts a good start by going four scoreless innings

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After eight strong innings by Chris Bassitt and an elite performance by Kevin Gausman, Bowden Francis was asked to complete a near-impossible task as the Blue Jays wrapped up their final visit to the Oakland Coliseum by picking up where his pitching peers left off.

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Francis struck out the first batter he faced in Sunday’s series rubber match on a splitter that had plenty of movement.

The game itself had plenty of movement, at least in terms of momentum swings, and late-game drama.

Toronto’s bats began well, only to run into an extended dry spell before the tandem of Daulton Varsho and Davis Schneider came up big in the eighth inning, teaming up to save the Jays from complete embarrassment.

Ultimately, the game required extra innings, which is an indictment of the Jays, who should have left the Bay Area with a sweep.

They did, however, leave with a series win following Sunday’s 6-4 victory, but it could have easily gone the other way.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa made the Jays’ final stay in Oakland a memorable one when he cleared the bases in the top of the 10th inning to complete his five-RBI day — a career-high — as his run of clutch hitting continues.

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It was a classic case of too close for comfort because the Jays could have easily lost Sunday’s game and with it the series, which would have been both inexcusable and inexplicable.

Some ill will even played out when the awkward confines at the Coliseum resulted in Yusei Kikuchi colliding with A’s first baseman Tyler Soderstrom, who ran toward the Jays’ dugout trying to secure a foul ball.

Cooler heads would prevail as did the Blue Jays, who head to Milwaukee one game under .500 with Jose Berrios starting Monday against the Brewers.

Sunday’s game marked the return of Francis to the rotation, a move manager John Schneider announced following Saturday’s win as the club continues to be without a legitimate fifth starter in the wake of Alek Manoah’s season-ending elbow injury.

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When he last appeared on the bump, Francis, who had just been activated from the injured list, was used as bulk reliever in a 10-1 home loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Francis began the year in the rotation, allowing 12 combined runs and four home runs in his opening two starts against Houston and the New York Yankees.

Clearly, there’s an opportunity for Francis, despite his previous struggles, but so much will be up to him. Openers are never ideal and there’s no telling how many innings Yariel Rodriguez, who continues his rehab assignment in the minors, can give the Blue Jays once he gets activated.

All in all, it was all the Jays could have hoped from Francis, who gave his team four scoreless innings. It’s not saying much, but the start was Francis’ best, perhaps the start of more encouraging times.

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Zach Pop’s first pitch in relief of Francis, a foul ball for a strike, matched the entire pitch count by the bullpen from the opening two games of the series, which featured Chad Green giving up a first-pitch walk-off homer in the ninth inning in a 2-1 loss.

Needless to say, it was all hands on deck because every healthy reliever was available.

Pop struck out the side to reach the century mark in career Ks (102).

Nate Pearson started the sixth inning for the Jays. After retiring the first hitter, Pearson served up a tasty slider Brent Rooker demolished by launching it 436 feet deep into the seats in left-centre field.

Up stepped Trevor Richards to start the seventh inning.

A walk and a single suddenly had two runners on base with none out. A sac bunt advanced the runners as the A’s had the go-ahead run at second base, forcing the Jays to bring in the infield.

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A bloop single placed perfectly in shallow left field scored two as the Jays found themselves in deficit mode.


On the day following his callup, Spencer Horwitz was inserted into the lineup in the No. 2 hole, reaching base on a walk in his first at-bat and coming around to score as the Jays ended a 29-game scoreless streak in the first inning. In two official at-bats, Horwitz went hitless.

In Sunday’s series finale, Horwitz batted leadoff, a role he served during his triple-A stint with the Buffalo Bisons.

Schneider wasn’t in the starting lineup. Schneider came in as a pinch hitter with one out in the eighth inning with the tying runner in Varsho standing on second base. Varsho then stole third and would score on Schneider’s sac fly.

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Schneider made a great defensive play in left field when he ran down a hard-hit ball in the ninth inning that nearly went off the wall.

On the game’s first pitch, Horwitz went the opposite way to reach base on a sharply hit single off Oakland starter Mitch Spence. Horwitz advanced to second on a one-out single, but the inning ended on a double play.

The scoreless streak in the first inning is back to one.

Horwitz was back at second base.

Following a fairly inactive Saturday, Horwitz was tested early when he made a tough catch by fending off the sun to record the second out in the first inning. He came in on a grounder and threw over to first to beat the runner in the third inning.

While his natural position is at first base, Horwitz has started at second base with the Bisons. He made a nice fielding play in the eighth inning to record the final out.


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