OAKLAND — He may have an MVP award on his shelf already, but Josh Donaldson has no problem manufacturing motivation.
The biggest at-bat Sunday for the former Athletic came in the ninth, when his two-run double off John Axford broke a tie score and sank the A’s 5-3 at the Coliseum. But the at-bat that really lit a fire under Donaldson came two innings earlier.
He came up with two runners aboard in a tie game and popped out to end that threat against Liam Hendriks, who played alongside him last season in Toronto.
“I think I just wanted to get Liam too bad,” Donaldson said. “I wanted to do some damage off of him.”
Flash back to a game at the Rogers Center on April 23.
Hendriks drilled Donaldson with a pitch in the left leg. Jays starter J.A. Happ countered by hitting Khris Davis in the ribs the following inning. Hendriks insisted after that game his pitch to Donaldson wasn’t intentional, an explanation that came across as genuine. Donaldson’s own comments after that game suggested he thought there was more to it. He still had that moment in mind Sunday.
“I got a little too aggressive,” Donaldson said of his seventh-inning at-bat. “I should have taken my walk and let Eddie (Encarnacion) come up there and do the damage. It didn’t work out that way. I was fortunate to come up in the ninth inning and I was able to come through for my team.”
His two-run double off Axford, pitching for the third consecutive day for a depleted Oakland bullpen, ensured the A’s wouldn’t win a game that began with them losing two pitchers in the first inning alone. Starter Rich Hill left when a blister opened up on his throwing hand, then Andrew Triggs exited after he was struck in the left calf by a comebacker — which happened to come off the bat of Donaldson.
But the A’s were in position to go for a three-game sweep due in part to rookie Sean Manaea, who wasn't supposed to pitch until Tuesday, but wound up being called upon for five innings of relief duty Sunday. He gave up two runs, struck out four and didn’t walk anybody, a much-needed effort on a day the bullpen had limited availability.
“It goes from relaxed and just watching the game, to game mode,” Manaea said. “It was something different for me, but I thought I did a good job of getting the right mindset.”
“It’s tough to ask a kid to do something like that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We just didn’t have enough to get through the game, bullpen-wise, if we didn’t use him.”
After going a franchise-record 15 consecutive games without committing an error, the A’s have now made an error in each of the last four. Davis let Encarnacion’s single get past him in the first inning, allowing Donaldson to come around and score from first.
Marcus Semien hit his 20th homer in the sixth and Yonder Alonso came off the bench to deliver a two-run double that same inning to tie the game, the highlights in Oakland’s only scoring rally of the day. Alonso is hitting .316 (37-for-117) over his last 37 games.