TORONTO (AP) — More than seven years after his successful big league debut, Cesar Valdez finally wound up back in the winner’s circle.
Valdez pitched a career-high six innings to win for the first time since 2010, Ryan Goins had two RBIs, and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Making his first start with Toronto and just the fourth of his career, Valdez (1-0) allowed one run and five hits, walked one and struck out four. He left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 40,624 after giving up a leadoff double to Khris Davis in the seventh.
“I want to thank the fans for everything they did for me when I stepped of the mound,” Valdez said through a translator. “It was amazing, it felt great. I was really emotional.”
Valdez was pitching for Arizona the only other time he won in the big leagues, pitching five innings to beat Houston in his major league debut on May 3, 2010. Following that season, Valdez did not pitch in the majors again before making four appearances with Oakland earlier this season.
“He was terrific, he really was,” manager John Gibbons said. “We didn’t know what to expect. We couldn’t ask for a better outing. Good for him. He’s been grinding it out over the years.”
Valdez credited his late father, who died in 2015, for helping him stay focussed on becoming a winner again at the big league level.
He was always the guy who would push me and drive me to stay in baseball,” Valdez said. “Everything I do now, it’s in his name.”
Goins praised Valdez for working quickly, throwing strikes, and keeping the defense involved.
“He was pretty much doing what he wanted out there,” Goins said. “It was pretty fun to watch.”
Joe Smith and Ryan Tepera each worked one inning. Roberto Osuna finished for his 26th save in 30 chances.
With more than half a dozen scouts on hand to monitor his performance ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, Oakland starter Sonny Gray (6-5) allowed four runs, none earned, in six innings.
The Blue Jays did all their damage against Gray in a four-hit second, with the big inning fuelled by two errant tosses from the Athletics right-hander.
After Justin Smoak’s leadoff single, Gray fielded a chopper by Kendrys Morales and tried to get the lead runner at second. Smoak ended up at third after Gray’s high throw sailed into the outfield, and Troy Tulowitzki followed with an RBI groundout.
“I made a really costly mistake,” Gray said. “I take pride in the defense side of pitching and today it just really let everybody down.”
Ezequiel Carrera reached on an infield single and advanced on Gray’s wild pitch before Ryan Goins hit a two-out, two-run double. Jose Bautista drove in Goins and snapped an 0 for 17 slump with an RBI double.
Gray is 1-3 with a 4.04 ERA in six road starts and 5-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 10 home outings.
Davis drove in Oakland’s only run with an RBI double in the fourth. The Athletics have lost six of eight. They scored one or fewer for the 17th time
“I thought we were a little anxious to start and maybe, as a whole, a little anxious right now,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Heather Ogden, principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, threw out the first pitch wearing a red Blue Jays jersey paired with a pink tulle skirt and golden ballet slippers.
CANADA DRY SPELL
The Athletics have lost 10 of 11 in Toronto.
TO ERR IS OAKLAND
Oakland made two errors and leads baseball with 86 miscues this season.
The Blue Jays are 5-23 when they do not hit at least one home run.
Athletics: OF Jaycob Brugman (stiff neck) was scratched from the lineup and replaced by Rajai Davis. … RHP Frankie Montas was unavailable for a second straight day after his flight from New York was delayed. He was trying to rejoin the team after staying in New York an extra day to sort out a visa problem.
Blue Jays: Toronto put RHP Danny Barnes (shoulder) on the 10-day DL and recalled LHP Matt Dermody from Triple-A Buffalo.
Athletics: RHP Paul Blackburn (1-1, 2.88) makes his fifth career start. Blackburn allowed four runs in his previous start after allowing five combined in his first three.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (4-7, 5.52) is looking for his first win since May 27. He’s 0-5 with a 9.52 ERA in nine starts since his last victory.
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