Esmil Rogers started so well after he moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays on May 29.
But the right-hander has struggled over his previous few starts, including Friday, where he lasted only three innings in the Blue Jays’ 14-6 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
It was Rogers’ fifth consecutive loss.
“He’s not in the strike zone as much, that’s pretty obvious.” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “They’re barrelling him up, they’re not missing many right now.”
Josh Reddick hit three home runs and drove in five in Oakland’s victory. The A’s hit a season-high five home runs as Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes also added solo shots.
It was a needed win for Oakland, who has won only two of their past eight games. With Friday’s victory, the A’s ended their three-game losing streak.
Lowrie picked up four RBIs and recorded his third four-hit game of the season, while A’s second baseman Eric Sogard extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games — the longest hitting streak by an A’s player this season.
“I finally got something to go my way,” said Reddick, who entered Friday struggling with a .145 batting average and an 0-for-20 slump before homering in the third inning against Rogers. “You hit it over there, they can’t catch it.”
Rogers (3-7) has an earned-run average of 8.50 over his past seven starts. But the 27-year-old, who’s thrown 96 2/3 innings so far this season, was quick to dismiss fatigue as a reason for his recent struggles.
“I don’t feel tired,” Rogers said. “I don’t even know how many innings I got. At the end of the day I passed the innings from last year, but I don’t think about it. I don’t think my body is hurting, and I feel great.”
He said the problem lies in his breaking ball.
“I can’t even use my breaking pitch because I can’t even throw it for a strike,” Rogers said. “Yes, it’s really hard for me. I think that’s my key. My secondary pitch is my breaking ball. When I’m only using my fastball, everybody can hit the fastball at this level.
“I’m not doing anything different. I think today, something was wrong with my mechanics, but I think everything is okay. I keep working on my arm motion. I think that’s the key.”
Despite the struggles from his starter, Gibbons doesn’t think Rogers should be pulled from the rotation.
“He’s earned that,” Gibbons said of Rogers’ spot. “He’s battling out there. He’s a competitor. He’s going through a really tough time.”
The Blue Jays, who have now lost two in a row, hit two home runs against A’s reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth inning. Jose Bautista hit his 26th homer of the season and Colby Rasmus followed with his 18th.
It was the opener of a seven-game home stand for the Blue Jays (53-62) who returned from a 5-5 West Coast trip that included winning two of three games against the Athletics (65-49). Brett Lawrie doubled in the second inning to extend his hit streak to 11 games, the longest for a Blue Jay this season.
A’s right-hander Jarrod Parker (8-6) allowed six hits and three runs in six innings to win his sixth successive decision dating back to May 28. Parker has a 2.90 ERA in that span of 13 starts.
Oakland got things off to a quick start by plating its first four batters of the game. Coco Crisp led off with a single, Sogard walked and Lowrie hit his ninth homer of the season to right field. Cespedes then hit his 18th homer of the season to left on the next pitch before Rogers retired the next three batters.
The A’s added two runs in the second on a single by Crisp that sent Seth Smith across the plate. Sogard’s sacrifice fly scored Stephen Vogt for the second run of the inning.
But the Blue Jays scored three runs in their half of the second inning to cut Oakland’s lead to 6-3. Rasmus drew a one-out walk and scored on a double by Lawrie as the ball bounced pass Crisp in centre field. Emilio Bonifacio singled in a run, stole second and scored on a double by Jose Reyes.
Oakland increased the lead to 7-3 in the third when Reddick homered with two out. He hit his second homer of the game to left with two out in the fifth against reliever Neil Wagner. Smith and Vogt doubled to increase the lead to 9-3.
Reddick’s three-run home run, his third homer of the game and eighth of the season, came against left-hander Juan Perez in the sixth inning. Perez left with two out in the seventh with an elbow injury.
“It doesn’t look good. There’s nothing definite right now,” Gibbons said of Perez’s injury, adding that his reliever will be re-examined on Saturday.
The Blue Jays will most likely put Perez on the disabled list and call up a replacement for the bullpen.
Notes: Attendance at Rogers Centre was 31,862. ... Catcher Josh Thole started for the fourth game in a row on Friday. Manager John Gibbons said that regular catcher J.P. Arencibia (right knee bursitis) was available to play if needed and might start on Saturday. Infielder Mark DeRosa is the emergency catcher .a The Athletics assigned on option right-hander pitcher Evan Scribner to triple-A Sacramento to make room for Adam Rosales, who was claimed on waivers from Texas on Thursday. The Rangers had claimed Rosales from the A’s on Aug. 2. a Left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle (7-7, 4.41 earned-run average) will start Saturday’s game for the Blue Jays against Athletics right-hander Sonny Gray (0-0, 0.00.) who is 10-7, with a 3.42 ERA in 20 starts at triple-A Sacramento. Gray will make his third career major-league outing and first start.