OAKLAND — Sonny Gray’s fastball wasn’t as sharp as it usually is, and the Oakland Athletics’ young pitcher even had a quirky replay go against him.
A rediscovered curveball, stellar defense behind him and timely hitting on offense made it all a moot point.
Gray allowed four hits over seven innings to bounce back from his worst start of the season and the A’s beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 on Thursday night.
“The idea is to really get that (curve) going again because I think the last five or six starts it’s been OK, but it hasn’t been a big factor for us,” said Gray, who walked three and struck out five. “We did some things a little different this week and I was able to find that again and get it going, especially early in the game.”
Gray (8-3) was knocked around in his previous start when he was tagged for five runs in five innings against Miami on June 28.
He was much sharper this time around and got some help from Oakland’s defense which turned three double plays, including one in the eighth after Josh Thole’s leadoff single.
Jose Reyes hit a fly out to deep right and Oakland’s Brandon Moss made a strong throw back to first baseman Nate Freiman, who tagged out Thole trying to get back to the bag.
“He’s still a little spotty with his fastball,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “That kind of makes him at times who he is, too. He can paint you on two pitches and then miss by a foot. His curveball was a big factor today.”
Gray might have been in line for a shutout were it not for an odd replay in the second inning.
After Toronto loaded the bases against Gray with one out, Anthony Gose hit a grounder to Freiman. Freiman appeared to tag Munenori Kawasaki as he ran for second base, but umpire Vic Carapazza ruled Freiman missed the tag and Kawasaki was safe.
Freiman then threw to catcher Stephen Vogt, who stepped on home plate for a forceout with Edwin Encarnacion, the runner on third, approaching.
Toronto manager John Gibbons requested the review, arguing that Kawasaki was out and that Encarnacion should be allowed to score because there would have been no force play at the plate.
After a delay of 4 minutes, 27 seconds, the call was overturned and the Blue Jays were given a 1-0 lead.
“We can’t put runners back,” crew chief Bill Miller said. “We have to go with what happened on the field, and what happened on the field was (Vogt) tagged home plate but he did not tag the runner. Unfortunately that was in direct relation to the call on the field at first base.”
Melvin immediately came out to argue and the A’s played the remainder of the game under protest.
It didn’t matter.
Freiman doubled in Brandon Moss in the bottom of the inning, and Vogt scored on a passed ball to put the A’s up 2-1.
Craig Gentry singled off Toronto starter R.A. Dickey (6-8) in the eighth and scored on John Jaso’s double. Alberto Callaspo’s sacrifice fly made it 4-1.
“We just didn’t get anything going offensively,” Gibbons said. “They outplayed us, pure and simple.”
Dickey, who beat the A’s on May 24, when he allowed two runs over 8 1-3 innings in his best outing of the season, lost his fourth straight start. The knuckleballer struck out six and walked three.
The loss drops the Blue Jays into a first-place tie with Baltimore in the AL East. It’s the first time since May 21 that Toronto has not held sole possession of the top spot in the division.
Dan Otero pitched the eighth and Sean Doolittle worked the ninth for his 12th save.
NOTES: Dickey had not lost four straight starts since 2004. … A’s slugger Yoenis Cespedes went 0 for 4 to snap a 15-game hitting streak. … Oakland 3B Josh Donaldson (lower back stiffness) was held out of the starting lineup for a second straight game. … The A’s activated LHP Eric O’Flaherty from the 60-day DL and designated LHP Jeff Francis for assignment. O’Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last year and hasn’t pitched in the majors since May 17, 2013. … The A’s reached agreement on a 10-year lease extension with the Oakland Coliseum. As part of the deal, the A’s will pay $10 million for the installation of new video scoreboards as well as other upgrades to the aging facility. … Toronto OF Colby Rasmus was held out of the lineup after injuring his right wrist running into the wall during the series against Milwaukee. … Oakland LHP Tommy Milone (6-3) faces Toronto RHP Marcus Stroman (4-2) on Friday.