Blue Jays' skid reaches five in Oakland

Blue Jays' skid reaches five in Oakland

Blue Jays' skid reaches five in Oakland
OAKLAND -- It seemed that recent struggles left the Blue Jays' offense with nowhere to go but up.

But in Thursday's series opener against the A's, the bats instead just sunk even lower. Toronto was nearly shut out for the second time in its past three games against Oakland, taking a 4-1 loss at the Coliseum.

This one wasn't as ignominious as the Jays' 16-0 setback at the hands of the A's last week at Rogers Centre. But the offensive issues were just as glaring, and they came on the heels of four straight low outputs.

Toronto outhit Oakland, 10-7, but the home team did a better job of making its baserunners count. Other than a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the sixth inning, the Blue Jays didn't string any offense together until Moises Sierra's groundout put them on the scoreboard in the ninth with what was nearly a game-ending double play.

"We have to find ways to manufacture," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "In so many innings, we started with an out, so that really limits the ability to sacrifice, hit and run, to move a guy over into scoring position, until we were able to scratch a run across in the ninth."

The Jays' five-game losing streak matches their longest of the season, and they find themselves facing some tough pitching in Oakland. The A's, in fact, lead the American League in ERA, and right-hander Bartolo Colon pitched to that standard on Thursday.

When Colon is on, his fastball command makes it difficult for opposing hitters to square up the ball. That was the case this time out, and it amounted to eight scoreless innings.

The Jays didn't have an extra-base hit until first baseman David Cooper doubled in the ninth, after Colon had exited.

"Early in the game, I didn't know if he had his best stuff, to tell you the truth," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "His velocity looked down. I don't know if our gun was off today, but you were seeing a lot of 86 and 87s, which you don't normally see from him. But he finds a way. He makes you make the adjustment, throws a bunch of fastballs to both sides of the plate."

Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie said that Colon didn't do anything special -- rather the team's bats just couldn't manage to "string stuff together."

Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez wasn't able to match Colon's performance. The 22-year-old gave up only three runs, and after spending the last month alternating good and bad starts, Alvarez managed to break the pattern by following a good outing last time out with a decent performance on Thursday.

But the sinkerballer didn't have his best stuff, in Farrell's eyes. He also struggled with his command, leading to a career-high five walks (one intentional), the last of which led to him being pulled with no outs in the sixth inning.

Alvarez can build on the fact that he was able to escape trouble in the fifth inning, pitching against the heart of the A's order.

But the three runs he gave up in the third inning, keyed by Josh Reddick's 23rd home run of the season, were enough to render him the losing pitcher in the wake of his team's hitting struggles.

"For the most part, pitchers aren't going to go out and change their game plan," Farrell said. "They know at certain points in time, runs are going to be at a premium. We're in one of those stretches right now."

Lawrie is symbolic of the lineup's larger issues. He's collected just three hits in his first 17 at-bats of the Blue Jays' 10-game road trip.

The third baseman said that there isn't any added pressure on the lineup, even with its recent problems and the absence of regulars Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia.

"Obviously you want to capitalize when you can [and] score a run, and if you can't do that, just have to tip your cap and try to capitalize next time you can," Lawrie said. "It is what it is. We're just trying to score runs, put the bat on the ball, try to get the next guy up and string some stuff together."

Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.