SPORTS

Blue Jays lament several missed opportunities in loss to Athletics

08/11/2013 04:33 EDT | Updated 10/11/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - The anticipation built at Rogers Centre as the fans remaining from a rare sellout stood in support of the Toronto Blue Jays' ninth-inning rally. Third baseman Brett Lawrie, whose bobblehead was the primary reason for the crowd of 45,312, stood on base waiting.

"I thought it was going to turn for us," Lawrie said.

It didn't. Like twice before, the Blue Jays left the bases loaded and were left to lament missed opportunities in a 6-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

"That was the difference in the game," manager John Gibbons said. "We put some pressure on them early, a couple times with the bases loaded, and of course there late. We just couldn't get that big, decisive hit."

It might've been a different story if starter R.A. Dickey didn't give up another home run, or if reliever Darren Oliver didn't implode in the eighth. But stranding 15 runners on base made for a tough result.

"I'm sure that the offence was frustrated, sure," Dickey said. "But (A's starter A.J. Griffin) made some good pitches too, in big situations, and so did I for that matter. They had first and third with nobody out too, and didn't get a guy in. Sometimes that's just the nature of the game that we play, and you've got to try to roll with the punches.

"I'm sure that they would've liked for it to be different, sure, but that's part of it."

The Blue Jays went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position; shortstop Jose Reyes singled in the sixth and Lawrie doubled to jump-started the ninth. Reyes grounded out to end that threat and a game A's manager Bob Melvin called an "emotional roller coaster."

The raw emotion minutes after the loss for Lawrie seemed to be impatience. Oakland closer Grant Balfour was booed repeatedly by the crowd for stall tactics during the bottom of the ninth, which lasted 26 minutes.

"He was walking around the mound, he was on the rubber but he wasn't in, so you were just sitting there waiting," Lawrie said. "It's a long time to be sitting there waiting. You start to get uncomfortable, then the ball starts to look different on you, especially when he's throwing a minute in between each pitch, or even two minutes for that matter.

"It probably threw him off a little bit as well, but it was just tough for us to kind of get comfortable in the box because he was throwing everything everywhere and you kind of don't know where it's going to be."

Balfour handed out three walks and called his performance "horrible." But he only gave up one run and picked up his 30th save of the season.

He and the A's had some breathing room because of a productive eighth, when they lit up Oliver, who endured his second-worst outing of the season. The 42-year-old entered with the score tied and gave up three runs on four hits, including one that barely got through on the left side.

"They just ended up getting a lucky one with two outs there at the end," Lawrie said. "That kind of stung us a little bit. They went up two and there wasn't enough room left to kind of come back, so that was kind of tough."

There was enough room earlier for the Blue Jays to at least keep Dickey from his 12th loss of the season. After he gave up three runs in the sixth, Toronto tied it up on a single by Reyes and a sacrifice fly by Maicer Izturis.

Dickey didn't leave Rogers Centre with a victory, though giving up three runs on six hits in seven innings left the knuckleball pitcher satisfied with his improvement.

"I felt like I gave us a chance to win, and that's what I always effort to do every time out is try to throw a quality start," Dickey said. "Today was a little bit of me trying some different things in this park to try to figure out how I can be better. Some of those things I felt like worked well. It's definitely an outing for me to grow from."

Dickey was masterful early, striking out five of the first 13 batters he faced and allowing just one hit through four innings. He got out of a fifth-inning jam before things went awry in the sixth.

He gave up a lead-off double to Yoenis Cespedes and an RBI single to Josh Donaldson. Brandon Moss' homer, a two-run shot, was the 19th Dickey has given up in 13 home starts this season.

"I'm sure he'll give up a few more," Gibbons said. "He's a fly-ball guy and the ball flies here."

Dickey didn't mind the home run, crediting Moss for getting a good swing on a low bitch. Cespedes' double bothered him more.

The Blue Jays could've said the same about some of Oakland's hits in the crucial eighth. But it was that kind of day as they fell back to 13 games under .500.

"We had them on the ropes," Gibbons said. "It was one of those games going back and forth. They got the big hit, we didn't."

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