Jeff Samardzija arrived at the ballpark nearly five hours before making his first start with his new ballclub.
The right-hander left having secured a four-game sweep for Oakland with a performance that showed exactly why the Athletics were so eager to get him in a trade with the Chicago Cubs.
Samardzija pitched seven strong innings to win his Oakland debut and the A’s beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2 on Sunday.
“First impressions are always important,” said Samardzija after lowering his overall ERA to 2.74.
“Like I said yesterday, they didn’t need me here. They were doing just fine without me. I don’t want to come in and change anything and change the atmosphere. I just want to come in and add and do my part,” he said.
He did just that, giving up four hits and one run with five strikeouts and one walk while earning his first win since June 7.
With the Cubs, Samardzija was 2-7 despite a 2.83 ERA. He was voted to the NL All-Star team but won’t pitch and will spend the game in the AL dugout.
“He was excited as you could be,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “It was great to get him off to a good start like that. Terrific performance.”
Samardzija, acquired a day earlier, received several standing ovations. He was cheered during pregame warmups and again after striking out the side in the seventh.
The veteran pitcher was equally excited after receiving some early run support, something that was scarce in Chicago. The Cubs scored two runs or fewer in 11 of his 17 starts in the NL this season.
Oakland had no such issue.
Jed Lowrie had two hits and scored twice, and leadoff hitter John Jaso added a pair of hits and an RBI for the A’s, who won their fourth straight after getting swept in three games at Detroit.
Stephen Vogt singled and tripled to help the A’s complete their first series sweep of the Blue Jays since taking a three-game series in 2000. Oakland hadn’t swept a four-game series from Toronto since May 22-24, 1981.
“It was beautiful, man, that was awesome,” Samardzija said. “Just getting one early run as a pitcher is the best thing ever. You can go out and pound the zone and understand if a guy gets on base so be it. And the way (the A’s) take at-bats is outstanding.”
Nate Freiman and Craig Gentry also drove in runs for the A’s.
Lowrie doubled and scored in the second, then Oakland added two more in the fourth to extend their majors-leading record to 55-33.
Pinch-hitter Derek Norris added an RBI double in the eighth for Oakland.
Steve Tolleson had a pinch-hit home run off A’s closer Sean Doolittle in the ninth for the Blue Jays, who have lost six straight on the road. Doolittle got his 13th save.
Toronto got a stellar outing from starter Drew Hutchison but for the fourth straight game had little success offensively. The Blue Jays went 0 for 18 with runners in scoring position during the series.
They didn’t have many opportunities against Samardzija and two relievers. Toronto managed just four baserunners over the final eight innings and had only two get past first base.
“We got shut down big time,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons after his club was outscored 14-4 in the four-game sweep. “We’re just not very good right now. We’re just not producing.”
Oakland general manager Billy Beane got Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel for a package of prospects that included the two most recent first-round draft picks by the A’s.
Samardzija pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first by getting cleanup hitter Jose Bautista to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“That was probably one of the biggest pitches of the game for me,” Samardzija said. “It allowed me to relax and then to come out and put a few on the board. I was able to relax and pound the zone.”
Samardzija retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced until Jose Reyes singled with one out in the sixth. Munenori Kawasaki followed with a double and Melky Cabrera’s groundout scored Reyes.
Hutchison (6-7) struck out four and walked two in his first career start against the A’s.
The punchless Blue Jays went into the game shorthanded. Edwin Encarnacion strained his right quad legging out an infield grounder on Saturday and was held out of the lineup. The Toronto slugger underwent an MRI before the game, though the results were not disclosed.
NOTES: Cole Gillespie went hitless in three at-bats for Toronto after being claimed off waivers. … Oakland OF Brandon Moss underwent an MRI on his injured left ankle. Results were not immediately known. … Toronto OF Brad Glenn was designated for assignment. The Blue Jays also claimed OF/DH Nolan Reimold off waivers from Baltimore. … A’s RHP Jesse Chavez will pitch the series opener against San Francisco on Monday. … Blue Jays LHP JA Happ (7-4) takes the hill in the opener against the Angels.
Updated July 6, 2014