Harden strikes out eight as A’s dump Blue Jays 4-1

Oakland 4 Toronto 1 TORONTO — The night was supposed to be a celebration of Brett Lawrie’s homecoming as a major-league player with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Toronto Blue Jays Brett Lawrie swings at a ball from Oakland Athletics pitcher Rich Harden during the fifth inning as he goes for 0-3 at bat during his home debut as a major leaguer in MLB baseball action in Toronto on Tuesday August 9

Toronto Blue Jays Brett Lawrie swings at a ball from Oakland Athletics pitcher Rich Harden during the fifth inning as he goes for 0-3 at bat during his home debut as a major leaguer in MLB baseball action in Toronto on Tuesday August 9

Oakland 4 Toronto 1

TORONTO — The night was supposed to be a celebration of Brett Lawrie’s homecoming as a major-league player with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Instead, another B.C. native stole the show.

Victoria’s Rich Harden struck out eight over seven innings and the Oakland Athletics beat the Blue Jays 4-1 on Tuesday.

Harden (3-2) struck out Lawrie, of Langley, B.C., for the second time in the game with two on and two out in the seventh inning to cap his first career victory over Toronto in nine career starts.

In doing so he held Lawrie, who received a standing ovation when he went to bat in the second inning and had the crowd chanting his name in seventh, hitless in three at-bats.

“He has a couple of different change-ups that he throws and I was just trying to see (the ball) as long as I could,” Lawrie said. “It took a couple of at-bats to see them and he made some good pitches, and I tip my hat to him.”

Harden, 30, is now 1-3 with a 5.11 earned-run average against Toronto. The only run Harden allowed in his seven innings of five-hit pitching was on Edwin Encarnacion’s 10th homer to lead off the second.

“I was aware of my past performances here,” Harden said. “It felt good to get this one out of the way.”

Josh Willingham hit his 18th homer with a runner on in the sixth and Kurt Suzuki hit his 10th, a solo shot, in the seventh to send Brett Cecil (4-5) to his first defeat since July 5. Cecil, who he had won his previous three decisions, allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings.

“With the exception of the change-up that stayed up and away to Willingham and the breaking ball that Suzuki got, I really felt that he threw the ball well,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.

The A’s added a run in the ninth on a single by Ryan Sweeney against Shawn Camp who took over from Luis Perez.

The 21-year-old Lawrie was 5-for-11 in his first three major-league games in Baltimore after being called up Friday from triple-A Las Vegas.

“I was a little more calm here,” he said. “I think my first game I was jacked up for it and I think as I got out there (Tuesday), there was a lot of reassurance, a lot of people behind me.”

He said the standing ovation was “pretty cool.”

“It kind of pumped me up and got my heart going a little bit,” Lawrie said.

Harden said he understood Lawrie’s excitement.

“That would be pretty exciting for him to be playing at home here in Canada, a big, big deal,” harden said. “I remember the first time I came up here and started here, it’s definitely a cool feeling.”

Grant Balfour took over in the eighth for Oakland and held the 3-1 lead despite allowing a one-out double to Eric Thames, his second hit in 34 at-bats.

With the lead 4-1, Andrew Bailey picked up his 14th save despite walking Encarnacion to lead off the ninth.

Encarnacion led off the second with a homer of the season on a 2-1 pitch, a high drive that just cleared the left-field fence and landed in the Blue Jays bullpen.

Harden, who did not pitch until July 1 because of a strained right shoulder, has allowed a home run in each of his seven starts this season. Encarnacion’s was the eighth he homer has allowed overall.

Harden walked J.P. Arencibia with two out in the second to bring up Lawrie who was batting ninth.

Lawrie struck out on three pitches.

The A’s did not have a base runner until Scott Sizemore walked with two out in the third. It was followed by a single by Jemile Weeks. Sizemore drew a futile throw going to third on the hit that allowed Weeks to take second. But Cecil struck out Cliff Pennington to end the inning.

The Blue Jays’ defence took over in the fifth after Ryan Sweeney worked the A’s second walk of the game against Cecil.

First, shortstop Yunel Escobar leaped high to snare Sizemore’s line drive. Next, Lawrie made a diving grab of Weeks’ grounder down the third-base line and got the out to end the inning with first baseman Adam Lind making a fine catch.

Cecil wasn’t surprised by Lawrie’s athleticism.

“When I was down in triple-A he was making plays like that almost on a daily basis,” Cecil said. “I thought it was going to be a lot closer play but he jumped up a lot quicker than I thought. And a great job by Lind on the other end to pick it up. I honestly thought he had no chance.”

Lawrie’s second at-bat against Harden was a fly out to centre.

Willingham put the A’s into a 2-1 lead with one out in the sixth with his homer on an 0-1 pitch, scoring Pennington who led off with a single. Suzuki’s 10th homer of the season led off the seventh and bumped Oakland’s lead to 3-1.

Encarnacion led off the home seventh with a walk and to third on a single to right by Colby Rasmus. But Aaron Hill popped out and Arencibia and Lawrie struck out.

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