Blue Jays 5 Athletics 3
TORONTO — Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch is starting the season on the bubble for a spot in the starting rotation.
He made a strong case for his full-time inclusion Wednesday night.
Litsch (1-0) had seven strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings as Toronto defeated Oakland 5-3 in front of 11,684 fans at Rogers Centre. Travis Snider belted a three-run homer to help the Blue Jays improve to 4-1 on the young season. Dallas Braden (0-1) shouldered the loss for the Athletics, who fell to 1-4.
Ricky Romero is the No. 1 starter in Toronto’s rotation, which is rather fluid due to Brandon Morrow’s arm injury. Brett Cecil is also in the mix with Litsch, rookie Kyle Drabek and Jo-Jo Reyes battling for the other two spots.
Litsch gave up six hits, walked two batters and threw 61 of his 100 pitches for strikes.
“He was powerful, he did a great job,” Farrell said. “He kept the game in control.”
Drabek picked up his first big-league victory with an impressive one-hit, seven-inning performance last Saturday against Minnesota. Reyes, meanwhile, was shaky in his first start as a Blue Jay. He gave up five earned runs over 3 1/3 innings on Tuesday in a 7-6 comeback win over the Athletics.
The injury-plagued Litsch has made only 10 starts over the last two seasons. The 26-year-old right-hander, who needed Tommy John surgery in 2009 and underwent hip surgery last August, recorded his first win at home since September 2008.
“I was able to keep hitters off balance,” Litsch said. “It was a good game called behind the plate. I don’t think I shook once. We kept going with what the game plan was.”
Snider, meanwhile, hit his first home run of the season in the fourth inning off Braden, who gave up five earned runs over seven innings.
“He made a mistake and hung a slider,” Snider said. “That’s what you want as a left-handed hitter. You look to punish when they leave the ball out over the plate.”
Yunel Escobar had three hits but left the game as a precaution after the sixth inning due to dizziness. He hit his head on Andy LaRoche’s leg when he slid into third base after a triple in the fifth.
“He smoked me,” LaRoche said. “I was going to be real surprised if he didn’t (come out).”
Farrell said Escobar was not experiencing any tingling, loss of feeling or nausea afterwards. He will be re-evaluated before the finale of the three-game series on Thursday afternoon.
Closer Jon Rauch recorded the final two outs for his first save. Hideki Matsui knocked in two runs for the Athletics, who were outhit 11-6.
The Jays opened the scoring in the first inning. Toronto leadoff man Rajai Davis hit a solid single to left field but was promptly thrown out after a botched stolen base attempt. Escobar followed with a single and Adam Lind drove him in with a double to left-centre field.
J.P. Arencibia continued his solid start when he lashed a ball off the base of the left-field wall in the second inning. However, he was thrown out at second base after a strong throw from left-fielder Josh Willingham. Arencibia showed off his own arm in the next inning when he threw out Cliff Pennington on a stolen base attempt.
Escobar was replaced by John McDonald, who opened the bottom half of the eighth with an infield single. Lind followed with a ground-rule double that chased Braden from the game. McDonald came across with an insurance run when Aaron Hill hit a single off reliever Brad Ziegler, who then got out of the jam with a strikeout and double play.
Reliever Marc Rzepczynski stymied the Athletics for two innings before handing the ball to Rauch. The game was completed in a tidy two hours 18 minutes.
The Blue Jays did not have slugger Jose Bautista in the lineup for the second straight game for personal reasons. The 2010 home run king was expected to return Friday for the opener of a three-game road series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Notes: Morrow and fellow right-hander Frank Francisco are scheduled to begin rehab assignments Thursday at Class-A Dunedin. Both players are on the 15-day disabled list. Morrow is nursing a strained right elbow while Francisco has a right shoulder strain. … Romero (1-0) was expected to get the start Thursday against Oakland’s Trevor Cahill (0-0). … “Flight Time Lang” and “Buckets Blakes” from the Harlem Globetrotters were on hand for the ceremonial first pitch. The Globetrotters are in town this week for three games at Rogers Centre. … David DeJesus extended his errorless streak to 246 games, the longest active streak in the major leagues. Neither team recorded an error in the game. … The Blue Jays have hit homers in five straight games for the first time since 2000. … The Athletics placed right-hander Michael Wuertz on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained left hamstring, retroactive to April 2. Right-hander Tyson Ross has been recalled from triple-A Sacramento.