Athletics

Donaldson homers, Blue Jays beat Indians to stay alive in ALCS

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Donaldson homers, Blue Jays beat Indians to stay alive in ALCS

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TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson homered to give Toronto a long-awaited lead, and the Blue Jays finally broke through with the bats, beating the Cleveland Indians 5-1 on Tuesday to avert a sweep in the AL Championship Series.

The Indians still lead the matchup 3-1, but Donaldson and a poised Aaron Sanchez handed them their first loss of this postseason.

Edwin Encarnacion later hit a two-run single, a welcome sight for a raucous Rogers Centre crowd that had fallen silent watching its team reach the brink of elimination because of a slumbering offense.

Donaldson's solo shot to left-center field off Corey Kluber in the third put the Blue Jays ahead for the first time all series. Two innings after that, the star third baseman made an outstanding diving stop to preserve a one-run edge.

Sanchez, the American League ERA champion, allowed a run and two hits in six innings, and the bullpen finished with three perfect innings.

Cleveland will try again Wednesday to win to earn its first World Series trip since 1997, but the big concern for the Indians coming into the series - an injury-riddled rotation - still lingers.

Kluber was starting on three days' rest for the first time in his career, and in Game 5 Cleveland will send lightly used rookieRyan Merritt to the mound against Marco Estrada.

Kluber hadn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts this postseason. Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP and sporting a still freshly shaved face, opened the scoring with his first home run of these playoffs.

The wild-card Blue Jays made it 2-0 in the fourth when Ezequiel Carrera's blooper fell between three Cleveland fielders in left-center for an RBI single.

Roberto Perez hit an RBI double in the fifth off Sanchez. Carlos Santana's two-out grounder to the left side might have had a chance to score him, but Donaldson made the play.

The Indians didn't have another baserunner after that. Brett CecilJason Grilli and Roberto Osuna pitched an inning each in relief for Toronto.

Taking no chances, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought in Osuna, his closer, in a non-save situation to finish off Cleveland.

The Indians were trying to become the third team to sweep a Division Series and Championship Series in the same postseason. The 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2014 Kansas City Royals both did it.

Cleveland had won nine in a row, including three straight over Boston in the ALDS.

The Indians had a chance to take the lead in the third when Tyler Naquin hit a leadoff double and went to third on a sacrifice. Sanchez retired Santana on a soft grounder with the infield in, and then Jason Kipnis also grounded out.

Kluber was pulled after 89 pitches. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the seventh after a throwing error by reliever Bryan Shaw. Encarnacion came up with the bases loaded and the crowd chanting "Eddie" - and his hard grounder skipped off the mound and into center field to make it 4-1.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Trevor Bauer's finger injury put more pressure on Kluber to come back for Game 4 and a possible Game 7 on short rest. Bauer cut his right pinkie on a drone and had to be pulled in the first inning Monday after he started bleeding.

"I had to witness everything he had to go through to try and go out there and pitch last night," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before Tuesday's game. "Not too many people would have done that. He's been wonderful. He's obviously grown over the years because he wanted to."

UP NEXT:
Indians: The 24-year-old Merritt has pitched 11 innings as a big leaguer. His only start came Sept. 30, when the left-hander held Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings.

Blue Jays: Estrada allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 1 against Cleveland.

Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

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Matt Olson optimistic A's can fill void at first base in his absence

OAKLAND – It really was a freak injury. One swing of the bat, a seemingly inconsequential foul ball.

But during Thursday's loss to the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Matt Olson knew right away something was wrong.

"I generally have a pretty high pain tolerance," the A's first baseman said Sunday. "I couldn't grip the bat when I came back (to the dugout) so I knew something was up."

It turned out Olson had fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. He underwent hamate excision surgery Friday in Los Angeles, and will be out indefinitely.

"It sucks," Olson admitted. "The timing of it is good and bad. Good because I get five or six days here to get ahead, but it sucks because it's the beginning of the year and you work all offseason to get to this point."

A's manager Bob Melvin added: "There are certain guys who you feel like are a little more replaceable than others. He's a tough one. ... He makes everybody in the infield better. All you've got to do is get it over in his direction. He's got a wide wingspan and he picks everything out of the dirt.

"It's tough not having him out there, but that's why we have a Mark Canha, a (Jurickson) Profar, and a Chad Pinder. It gives somebody else an opportunity."

Olson was not given a timetable for his return, but he noted a wide variance in other players with the same injury, anywhere from four to eight weeks. While he's obviously disappointed, he believes the team can survive without him.

"We've got guys -- Canha, Pinder, (Franklin) Barreto, and Profar -- all of those guys are very established and have good at-bats," Olson said. "They're guys who are going to get more at-bats because of it. I don't think it's a bad thing. It sucks for me, but I'm glad these guys are going to get a little more regular playing time."

[RELATED: A's have options at first base in light of Olson injury]

Although he hasn't missed any games yet, Olson joked he has already experienced the effects of sporting a cast on his right hand in his everyday life.

"I had to go to the store today to get stuff for my apartment. I got a ton of stuff. Then I got to the apartment complex, and thought I was going to have to make like five trips because I can only carry things with one hand," he laughed.

As Olson adjusts to life with just one functional hand, the A's must adjust to life without Olson's powerful bat in the lineup and his slick glove in the field. In both cases, it will be a difficult process.

Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

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Five free agent starting pitchers still available for A's to target

It's no secret the A's could use some starting pitching help.

The problem became more dire this week when the team announced talented left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

Though the season is already underway, there are still several starting pitchers available on the free agent market. Former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel tops the list, but don't expect the A's to throw massive money his way.

Instead, Oakland may choose to pursue one of these five starters:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson certainly makes the most sense of anyone. The 35-year-old right-hander was the most pleasant of surprises last season. Jackson went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts and was a key part of the A's clubhouse chemistry.

The two sides have been in contact for much of the offseason but have not been able to come to terms on a deal. That could change now that Jackson and the A's both figure to be a little more desperate.

James Shields 

At the age of 37, Shields is obviously nearing the end of his career, but he figures to get a shot somewhere in the league. The former All-Star went just 7-16 with a 4.53 ERA last season with the White Sox but did pitch over 200 innings.

Shields has a career ERA of 4.01 in 13 seasons. The right-hander would likely fair better on a team like Oakland, especially playing his home games at the pitcher-friendly Coliseum.

Miguel González

González is coming off season-ending rotator cuff surgery, but at just 34 years old he has a chance to bounce back. The right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.62 ERA in 2017, his last full season, but recorded a solid 3.73 ERA the year before.

González has a career ERA of 4.06 in seven major league seasons and could be another pitcher who would benefit from the Coliseum. He will be available for cheap, making him a low-risk signing.

Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo has struggled the past few seasons, but at just 33 years old, he still has time to regain his form. The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.06 in 12 big league seasons.

Gallardo's last productive season came in 2015 with the Texas Rangers. The former All-Star finished that year 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA. Like González, he should be available for a low cost.

[RELATED: A's have options at first base after Olson injury]

Bartolo Colón

Yes, Big Sexy is still going strong at the age of 45. You've got to think someone will take a flier on the former Cy Young Award winner, who will be entering his 22nd major league season.

Colón has 247 career wins and a 4.12 ERA, though he struggled to a 5.78 ERA last season in Texas. But three years ago, the right-hander went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and made his fourth career All-Star Game.