OAKLAND – The damage against Kendall Graveman and the A’s on Tuesday didn’t come from Josh Donaldson’s portion of the box score.
The All-Star third baseman went 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI against his former club, but he didn’t even reach base for the first time until his Blue Jays already were ahead 6-1.
Nevertheless, this night undoubtedly was about Donaldson’s return to his major league roots. And despite the general assumption that he would have loved to stick it to his old team after being traded to Toronto in November, what stood out Tuesday was Donaldson’s sincere appreciation for all that went right for him while wearing an A’s uniform.
“It’s definitely different, looking over to the other dugout and seeing Bob Melvin, and Gags (A’s coach Mike Gallego) over at third base,” Donaldson said. “It’s just one of those things where you don’t really think about it until it happens. … A lot of people (here) had a lot to do with where I’m at today, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Donaldson received a warm standing ovation from the Coliseum crowd before his first at-bat. But what stood out, game-wise, in the A’s 7-1 loss was just how many different people in the Blue Jays’ lineup can punish a pitcher. Graveman allowed solo homers to Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, then a three-run shot to Russell Martin that ended his night in the sixth.
Graveman, who came to the A’s in the Donaldson trade, insisted he had no extra adrenaline or nerves going against his former team. But he credited the Blue Jays for making him pay for mistakes.
“Some pitches around the zone, they laid off of,” Graveman said. “When I missed up in the zone, that’s when I got hurt.”
The A’s have fallen 11 games back in the AL West as team officials ponder their options with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching a week from Friday. Along with monitoring how the A’s are playing, they’re monitoring how well teams at the top of the AL West are playing, and the realistic chances for the A’s (43-52) to make a move.
Though the Houston Astros have tumbled out of first place and are struggling, the division-leading Los Angeles Angels (53-40) have won six in a row and are gathering steam. The A’s didn’t lose ground in the Wild Card hunt Tuesday but still trail by eight games.
That storyline will continue. Tuesday’s theatre centered on Donaldson, who played a round of golf at Wente Vineyards on Monday in a group that included Gallego and A’s pitching coach Curt Young.
Gallego, the A’s infield coach, was the main person working with Donaldson as he transitioned from catcher to third base in 2012, a move that blazed his trail to becoming one of the AL’s best all-around players.
Donaldson was a raw talent, but Gallego quickly noticed the desire and baseball intelligence that would allow Donaldson to excel at third.
“I always felt he knew what he wanted to get done,” Gallego said. “It was more of a conversation than a learning experience for him.”
Donaldson was asked if he had much conversation with the A’s Brett Lawrie, who came over in the trade from Toronto and replaced him at third base. Donaldson was running at third base during a late-game pitching change.
“I think a lot of people want to try to put me and him in the same boat, but we’re not,” Donaldson said. “… I’ve never had a chance to sit down and talk to him.”
Donaldson did chat plenty with Gallego while the latter was in the third-base coach’s box. But Donaldson stressed that his competitiveness wins out over friendly ties to former teammates and coaches.
“If it’s my Mom, I’m gonna tackle my Mom” if necessary, he said.
There’s two more games left before the Blue Jays leave town, and the smart money is on Donaldson playing a more central figure in the rest of this series than he did Tuesday night.