TORONTO -- With trade rumors swirling around Sonny Gray, it was the Blue Jays' offense that took center stage early Tuesday night and a former A's pitcher who carried it the rest of the way.
Toronto scored four runs in the second inning, and that was more than enough for right-hander Cesar Valdez. The 32-year-old began the year with Oakland and got some revenge against his former team by allowing just one run over six-plus innings en route to a 4-1 victory at Rogers Centre over the A's.
Valdez left the field to a standing ovation in the top of the seventh after scattering five hits and a walk while striking out four. It was his first start at the big league level since April and his first win since May 3, 2010.
"He was terrific, he really was," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We didn't know what to expect. He pitched a couple of times within the last four or five days, but we couldn't have asked for a better outing and good for him. He has been grinding it out over the years."
Gray surrendered four runs, but all of them were unearned because of a throwing error he made in the bottom of the second. He scattered five hits and a pair of walks while striking out nine over six innings in what could have been his final start for Oakland with Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline quickly approaching. It was Gray's first time allowing more than two runs since June 20, but because they were unearned his ERA also dropped to 3.43.
"At the end of the day, I made a really costly mistake," Gray said. "Looking back on it, it's one of those that put us in such a big hole early in the game, it was just a little too deep to climb out of. I take pride in the defensive side of pitching, and today it just really let everybody down."
Oakland dropped to 1-4 on the current road trip while a victory for the Blue Jays on either Wednesday or Thursday would secure their first series victory since the All-Star break.
"He's one of the best in the game, he has great stuff," Goins said of Gray. "Luckily, we put together a big inning and then a great pitching performance from Valdez today. He was great."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Self-inflicted damage: Gray got into some trouble in the bottom of the second inning and he only had himself to blame. With a runner on first and nobody out, Kendrys Morales hit a slow little dribbler up the first-base line. Gray had an easy out at first base, but instead tried to get the force at second by making an off-balance throw. The move backfired as the lob sailed into the outfield and put runners on the corners. Goins and Bautista later added a pair of doubles as Toronto jumped out to an early 4-0 lead it would not relinquish.
"He's a terrific fielder and usually makes that play if he's deciding to go to second," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Other than the one inning, he pitched well. He recovered, because his pitch count was up after three innings, and we ended up getting more than what I thought we would get out of him."
Quality relief: Valdez departed the game after a leadoff double to Davis in the top of the seventh. Right-hander Joe Smith entered for Toronto and then proceeded to retire the next three batters he faced to escape the inning without any damage. It was Smith's second outing since coming off the disabled list with soreness in his right shoulder. The veteran righty missed more than a month, but there were no signs of rust in this one as Jed Lowrie lined out to right, Ryon Healy grounded out to first and Matt Chapman struck out swinging.
"I guess I'm real lucky this year. Just not lucky with nobody on. So maybe that will start changing too." -- Goins, on hitting .364 with runners in scoring position and two outs
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Toronto won a game without hitting a home run for just the fifth time this year. The Blue Jays are 5-23 in those situations.
Melvin won his challenge in the top of the first inning. With a runner on first, Marcus Semien hit a ground ball to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki that the Blue Jays turned into what they believed was a double play. First-base umpire James Hoye called Semien out at first base, but Melvin asked for a review, and the call on the field was overturned.
A similar review took place in the bottom of the third but with the opposite sides involved. This time it was Toronto's Justin Smoak who appeared to hit into a double play, but it was later ruled that Yonder Alonso's foot had come off the bag at second base so Josh Donaldson was eventually ruled safe as the call was overturned.
Athletics: The A's will send rookie right-hander Paul Blackburn (1-1, 2.88) to the mound for Wednesday's 4:07 p.m. PT matchup with the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Blackburn allowed four runs in his last start against the Mets after allowing just five runs (four earned) over his first three starts.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (4-7, 5.52) will take the mound when this series continues on Wednesday night with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Since the start of June, Estrada is 0-5 with a 9.52 ERA and one of the biggest issues is that he's walked 26 batters over his last 28 innings.
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