OAKLAND -- The Blue Jays' series in Oakland couldn't have come to an end soon enough for a club struggling to score runs and suddenly searching for answers.
The four-game set vs the A's basically turned into a worst-case scenario for the former division leaders. Toronto was not only swept out of town but it also lost a core player in Edwin Encarnacion, who says he will miss at least two weeks because of a quad injury.
Without Encarnacion in the lineup Sunday afternoon, the Blue Jays' offensive problems went from bad to worse as A's right-hander Jeff Samardzija held them to one run over seven innings in a 4-2 loss at O.co Coliseum.
"We got shut down big time here," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "In three of the games, early in the games, we had a chance to do some damage, open up the game, and take the lead. Today was the perfect example, groundout, yesterday same kind of thing.
"That's our chance, with the right guys up, it didn't happen. We pitched good enough to win every one of these games but it didn't happen."
The Blue Jays scored a total of four runs in those four games while adding five extra-base hits and eight walks. A home run by Steve Tolleson in the ninth inning was the only thing that saved the club from going four games without a homer for the first time this season.
The last time the Blue Jays were swept in a four-game series by Oakland was May 22-24, 1981. The last time Toronto was swept in a series of three games vs. the A's was July 31 to Aug. 2, 2000. The lack of production with runners in scoring position certainly didn't help this time around as Toronto went 0-for-20 in those crucial at-bats.
This loss likely stung even a little bit more than normal because it came against a pitcher the Blue Jays were hoping to acquire prior to the non- waiver Trade Deadline. Toronto had been linked to Samardzija dating all the way back to the offseason but in the end it was the A's who pulled the trigger on the deal and he was almost flawless in his Oakland debut.
Samardzija allowed one run in the sixth inning on a groundout by Melky Cabrera but that was it. The former Cubs ace surrendered one run on four hits and one walk while striking out five to make a strong first impression with his new team. The only real chance besides the sixth came in the first when Jose Bautista grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners on the corners.
"He was pretty unbelievable today," A's catcher Derek Norris said of Samardzija. "It was even better than I anticipated. Definitely had some adrenaline going through his veins today, and you could tell the passion and the excitement in his body language."
Right-hander Drew Hutchison took the loss for Toronto, but just like has been the case for the past two weeks, it was another example of a Blue Jays starter giving his team a chance to win. Hutchison allowed one run in the first and two runs in the fourth but did enough to keep his team in the game.
Hutchison was charged with the three runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out four in 5 2/3 innings. It was the first time in 14 games that a Toronto starter didn't record at least six innings and the staff has a 3.14 ERA over that same span.
"It's tough, I thought I threw the ball real well," Hutchison said. "With the exception of two walks in the sixth. Other than that, the only thing I really want back was the 1-2 to [Jed] Lowrie, the changeup, I didn't execute it, I didn't bury it. But other than that I thought I threw the ball pretty well."
Toronto's lengthy road trip will now continue with three games against the Angels. The Blue Jays will then finish the first half with a series in Tampa Bay before taking a much-needed four-day break for the All-Star Game.
"We're just not very good right now," Gibbons said. "We have a couple of guys injured, but not everybody. We have guys that are regulars who are cold right now. I don't necessarily think I see something different with the approach, we're just not producing."