Taking advantage of easier schedule, Blue Jays visit A’s next

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The Toronto Blue Jays will continue their trek through baseball’s lightweight division at an opportune time when they open a three-game series against the host Oakland Athletics on Monday.

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The Blue Jays, in third place in the heavyweight American League East, got a two-out, go-ahead RBI single from Whit Merrifield in the ninth inning Sunday en route to escaping Colorado with a 7-5 victory and two wins in the three-game series.

Having also gone 2-1 against another non-contender — the Washington Nationals — in their previous series, the Blue Jays (75-62) have taken advantage of a soft spot in the schedule to remain within arm’s length of the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers in a three-team duel for the final two wild-card spots in the AL.

After three games against Oakland (42-95), which begins the week tied with Kansas City for the fewest wins in baseball, the Blue Jays will get three cracks at the Royals before enduring a murderers’ row of opponents in a 19-game sprint to the finish.

Toronto took two of three games when the A’s visited Canada in June, outscoring the visitors 23-9.

A trip to Oakland means a homecoming of sorts for former San Francisco Bay Area stars Brandon Belt, a two-time world champion with the San Francisco Giants, and Matt Chapman, a three-time Gold Glover and 2019 All-Star with the A’s.

However, Chapman won’t play in this series due to a sprained middle finger on his right hand, while Belt was a late scratch from Sunday’s game in Colorado with lower back tightness.

Whether or not he plays, Bay Area fans could get their last chance to say goodbye to Belt, as the 35-year-old said last week that he’s pondering retirement at season’s end.

“I love the game of baseball, I love playing baseball, I love being on the field,” Belt assured. “It’s a lot of the other stuff that I get tired of — the traveling and being at the field for hours and hours and hours at a time, being away from the family. So it’s a lot of stuff I gotta consider this offseason.”

Monday’s scheduled Blue Jays starter, Jose Berrios (9-10, 3.70 ERA), earned a win in the middle game of the previous A’s series. The right-hander has gone 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in nine career starts against the Athletics but is 0-2 in four starts in Oakland.

Berrios will see a rejuvenated A’s squad that is coming off a three-game home sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, scoring a total of 21 runs in the wins. During Sunday’s 10-6 victory, second baseman Zack Gelof contributed two hits, including an infield single to break up Tyler Anderson’s no-hit bid in what turned into a four-run sixth inning.

After the game, it was announced that Gelof, who made his major league debut on July 14, had been selected as the AL Rookie of the Month for August. The 23-year-old hit .286 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs in 27 games in August.

“The group was fired up,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said of being able to make the announcement himself after Sunday’s win. “This is definitely a bright spot for us as a group and as an organization through development — Zack being drafted by the A’s and brought through the system. To have him come here and really make an impact in his first month is a great sign for all those things.”

Drawing his start on Monday, Athletics left-hander Ken Waldichuk (2-7, 5.92) will attempt to avenge a 12-1 drubbing in Toronto in June in which he was bombed for six runs in 2 1/3 innings of relief. It was his only career outing against the Blue Jays.

—Field Level Media

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