MLB: Blue Jays turn to bullpen in series finale vs. Athletics

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The Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t be set up any better for a bullpen day when they seek a road-series win over the Oakland Athletics in the finale of a three-game set on Sunday afternoon.

The Blue Jays needed to give their relievers as much rest as possible with starter Alek Manoah out for the season with upcoming elbow surgery and his spot in the rotation coming up Sunday.

They got their wish as Toronto received eight strong innings from Chris Bassitt in a 2-1 loss Friday and a full nine innings from Kevin Gausman in a 7-0 win in Saturday’s rematch.

The Blue Jays’ bullpen threw a total of one pitch in the two games, although it went for a walk-off home run by Oakland’s JJ Bleday on Friday.

Toronto is expected to turn to right-hander Bowden Francis (2-2, 9.00 ERA) to make the start on Sunday.

Francis struggled in relief in his last outing on Tuesday, allowing four runs on five hits — including two homers — in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-1 setback to the Baltimore Orioles.

He has come out of the bullpen twice in his career against Oakland, throwing a total of two hitless, scoreless innings.

Fellow right-hander Trevor Richards (1-0, 2.93 ERA) also is expected to pitch in some fashion on Sunday for the Blue Jays. He got the call Tuesday in Baltimore and worked two scoreless innings, striking out four.

Richards has faced the A’s only in relief in his career, going 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA over seven appearances.

“We’re still in the planning phase,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “(You) know that you have some length out of those guys (Sunday).”

Oakland is expected to counter with right-hander Mitch Spence (4-3, 3.86 ERA), who is coming off a season-best, six-inning effort in a 4-3 home loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old has allowed a total of just seven runs in his last four starts but only has one win to show for it as the A’s have backed him with just 11 runs in those games.

The rookie has yet to face the Blue Jays in his career.

The series finale will come one day after each team ended a long streak.

Toronto entered Saturday’s game having failed to score in the first inning in 29 consecutive games, two shy of the all-time major league record. But taking advantage of the wildness of A’s starter Luis Medina, who walked three of the first four batters he faced, the Blue Jays ended that distinction on a Danny Jansen sacrifice fly.

Meanwhile, the A’s had played 16 consecutive games decided by three runs or less until seeing a five-run fifth pave the way to Saturday’s 7-0 setback.

A’s manager Mark Kotsay insisted he was proud of the way his team had played during the stretch, even though it had just seven wins to show for the run of close outcomes.

“That’s a reflection of the ability to keep us in the game,” Kotsay said of his roster in general. “It’s a good feeling that you go out and 16 games you’re competitive, you have a chance to win. (Saturday was) the first game where you felt like: OK, uphill battle here.”

–Field Level Media

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