OAKLAND — The A’s roster has turned over, multiple times, since Josh Donaldson was traded after the 2014 season.
The link remains for the three-time All-Star however. That gets reinforced every time he returns to the Coliseum and sees familiar coaches, familiar faces in the stands.
It doesn’t stop him from inflicting damage on his old team. The 2015 American League MVP had been relatively quiet for most of three games at the Coliseum. But it wouldn’t feel like an A’s-Blue Jays series if he didn’t factor into a storyline, would it?
The moment came in the 10th inning, when Donaldson launched a pitch from A’s reliever Frankie Montas high and deep into the afternoon sky. It finally landed, barely clearing the elevated wall in left-center to snap a tie score and send Toronto to an eventual 7-5 victory.
“I didn’t know (if it was out) because of how high that I hit the ball,” Donaldson said. “I’ve hit many balls in this stadium that were like that and kind of got knocked down by the wind and the air.”
This one had enough distance, and it ruined an afternoon that had been growing more encouraging for the A’s by the inning. Down 4-1 after Jharel Cotton allowed four runs in the second, they began chipping away at that deficit. Cotton steadied himself and got through six innings with just the four runs. John Axford and Liam Hendriks combined for three scoreless innings and leadoff man Rajai Davis provided a spark in the leadoff spot that’s been missing most of the season.
But they couldn’t complete their first home sweep in more than a calendar year. Donaldson, who now has 15 RBI in 15 games against the A’s since they traded him to Toronto, had been 3-for-8 with an RBI over the first two games of this series. He hadn’t done anything to alter a game until the top of the 10th Wednesday.
Donaldson may get less familiar with the A’s roster each time he plays them, but he still has relationships with manager Bob Melvin, hitting coach Darren Bush (who managed him in the A’s farm system) bullpen coach Scott Emerson (who Donaldson worked closely with while he was still a minor league catcher) and others.
“There’s a lot of guys on the coaching staff that are really good people and that I had a lot of great conversations with that helped me get to the point where I am today,” he said. “I won’t ever take that for granted.”
The A’s, as they prepare for a six-game road trip that begins Friday at Tampa Bay, hope that Wednesday’s game can help ignite Davis’ season. He came in hitting just .198, struggling enough for Melvin to drop him to the bottom of the order many games. But he went 4-for-5 with four runs and fell just a homer short of the cycle.
“Just eliminating extra moment with my lower half, trying to use my hands,” Davis said when asked what he’s working on. “That’s my thing. Use my hands and trust that my hands will get to the ball.”
Trevor Plouffe homered in the fourth to snap an 0-for-25 streak. Then the A’s tied it 4-4 after Davis tripled and scored on Chad Pinder’s sacrifice fly. Davis doubled in the first and score the A’s first run on Khris Davis’ two-out double off Francisco Liriano. He scored again after singling and coming around eventually on Davis’ fielder’s choice grounder, then added his fourth run after doubling in the 10th and scoring on Matt Joyce’s single.
“Definitely it helps when the leadoff batter gets on,” Davis said of his own duties. “With those guys mashing in the middle, we just want to have some runners on for them so they can drive in some more runs.”