OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jeff Samardzija arrived at the Coliseum on Saturday night just in time to see the kind of team he was hoping to join strut its usual stuff -- terrific pitching, timely hitting and stellar defense.
As Samardzija sat in the dugout meeting new teammates after arriving at the ballpark right before game time, the Oakland A's gave their high-profile pitching acquisition an impressive preview of his new home in a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
For starters, Scott Kazmir (10-3) allowed just three singles and a couple of walks over seven innings while striking out eight. Kazmir outdueled Blue Jays 10-game winner Mark Buehrle (10-6) despite a shaky start.
The A's also made two sparkling defensive plays that had to make Samardzija's eyes light up. Josh Donaldson made a spectacular running catch of a Munenori Kawasaki foul pop while crashing into the tarp roll to lead off the eighth inning.
Later in the inning, with the Blue Jays threatening to pull within one run on a Jose Bautista double into the left field corner, Craig Gentry and Jed Lowrie hooked up on a relay to the plate that nailed Melky Cabrera for the final out of the inning.
The Blue Jays challenged the play, but it only served to allow the crowd of 20,236 to revel in the obvious -- Gentry made a perfect throw to his relay man, and Lowrie threw a strike to catcher Derek Norris, who tagged Cabrera on the helmet just as his toe touched home plate.
For the A's, it was their third straight win and also their 21st victory in their last 27 home games. It might not be the official "friendly confines" that Samardzija was used to with the Chicago Cubs, but the Coliseum is serving Oakland very well.
Kazmir's most difficult inning was the first. Jose Reyes opened the game with a single up the middle, and Cabrera followed with a bloop hit over first base that moved Reyes to third.
After second baseman Alberto Callaspo made a fine over-the-shoulder catch of Bautista's short pop to center, Edwin Encarnacion hit a slow grounder to shortstop that looked to be a double play. Encarnacion beat the relay from second and Reyes scored.
Encarnacion, the Blue Jays' slugging first baseman and cleanup man (26 home runs and 70 RBIs), paid a price for running so hard to avoid the DP, however. He went down in a heap after crossing the bag, having suffered a quadriceps injury, and had to be replaced by Adam Lind.
It might not have mattered against Kazmir, however. After striking out Dioner Navarro to end the top of the first, the left-hander turned exceedingly stingy. He allowed a one-out walk to Brad Glenn in the second, then retired 15 of the next 16 batters. The only base runner was Glenn again, with a leadoff infield single in the fifth for his first major league hit.
Kazmir walked Colby Rasmus with one out in the seventh but retired Glenn on a fly to left and struck out Juan Francisco to close out his season-high 113-pitch effort.
Oakland turned around Kazmir's first-inning deficit quickly. With two outs in the third, Donaldson hammered his 19th home run of the year, a blast to center on a 2-0 Buehrle pitch, to tie the game at 1-1.
The A's took the lead with a two-out, nobody-on rally in the fourth. Callaspo doubled into the left field corner, and Stephen Vogt drew a walk. Coco Crisp's bloop single to center to brought home Callaspo, and Gentry followed with a broken-bat hit to left that scored Vogt for a 3-1 lead.
Once Kazmir finished his latest strong outing, Luke Gregerson came on to pitch a scoreless eighth, and Fernando Abad finished things off in the ninth after the A's scored two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth.
First baseman Brandon Moss was not in the lineup after twisting his left ankle taking a swing in Friday's game. Moss said the ankle was sore but added that the injury wasn't serious and that he hoped to return to action Sunday.
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