OAKLAND -- Ken Giles recorded his seventh save by throwing a scoreless ninth inning in Toronto’s 5-4 triumph Sunday over the Oakland A’s. But the Blue Jay who truly sealed the club’s season-high fourth-straight victory was shortstop Richard Urena, who sauntered into short left-center field to snare Robbie Grossman’s popup
OAKLAND -- Ken Giles recorded his seventh save by throwing a scoreless ninth inning in Toronto’s 5-4 triumph Sunday over the Oakland A’s. But the Blue Jay who truly sealed the club’s season-high fourth-straight victory was shortstop Richard Urena, who sauntered into short left-center field to snare Robbie Grossman’s popup with two runners aboard, to prevent the A’s from completing a stunning comeback.
“He was still awake,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said of Urena, who was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo late Saturday, and flew through the night from Scranton-Wilkes Barre to make it in time for the Blue Jays’ series finale against the A’s.
Urena replaced Freddy Galvis, who made a wondrous barehanded catch of a fly ball to short left field Saturday. But Galvis was shaken up earlier in the ninth when he dove fruitlessly for Stephen Piscotty’s single, and took himself out of the game three batters later.
That was merely the final highlight in an afternoon full of key moments for the Blue Jays, who lengthened their winning streak and finished a 6-1, two-city road trip by relying on numerous contributions.
Justin Smoak provided the ultimate winning run by belting a two-run homer in the seventh inning. It was the 100th home run of Smoak’s tenure in Toronto, which was preceded by stints with the Rangers and Mariners.
During a nine-game hitting streak, Smoak is batting .452 (14-for-31) with two doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs. The first baseman’s surge has accompanied an overall revival on the part of Toronto’s offense, which generated 112 hits in its last 12 games compared with 64 in their first 11 games.
“We play in a tough division,” Smoak said of the AL East. “So we have to be able to score.”
Added Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo: “Our pitching has been there the whole time, but now that we’re swinging the bats, we’re a much better club.”
Pitching remained prominent for the Blue Jays, though starter Aaron Sanchez was limited to four innings by a broken right middle fingernail. Daniel Hudson and Joe Biagini provided three innings of shutout relief before the A’s jumped on Ryan Tepera for three eighth-inning runs that set up the tense ninth.
A’s manager Bob Melvin noticed the improvement in the Blue Jays, who finished 0-7 against Oakland last season.
“We beat them every game last year. They played well and played hard and beat us,” Melvin said. “We have to give it to them. We didn’t expect that. Hopefully it just inspires us for the next series to start playing better because it didn’t feel good getting swept.”
Toronto recorded its first three-game sweep against any club since Aug. 20-22, 2018 against Baltimore.
Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.