TORONTO – Drew Hutchison is learning that harder isn’t necessarily always better.
The 24-year-old right-hander was locked in Tuesday night, giving up just two earned runs on four hits through seven-plus innings to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to their ninth straight victory, 4-2 over the Oakland Athletics.
Hutchison, who came into the game with a 5.42 earned-run average despite a 10-2 record, notched his 11th win of the season by taking command of his fastball instead of worrying about the radar gun.
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“You get into situations sometimes and you tend to try to do a little too much instead of just taking the foot off the gas a little bit and executing pitches,” Hutchison said. “I think I did a good job of that.”
Tuesday’s outing was a far cry from Hutchison’s last three starts, in which he gave up 17 runs on 21 hits over 14 innings.
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He hadn’t pitched past the seventh inning since May 25, a complete game shutout against the Chicago White Sox.
“It’s been frustrating, definitely,” Hutchison said of his recent struggles. “I try to just move on. If you worry about your past it’s going to affect your future. Just go out there and make one pitch at a time, that’s really what it comes down to.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said the solid outing was exactly what Hutchison needed.
“I’ll tell you what, he was really, really good,” Gibbons said. “He’s been kind of the whipping boy around here lately. For him to step up like that, it’s big.”
Jose Bautista hit his 27th home run of the season to back Hutchison and Ryan Goins and Justin Smoak had runs batted in for the Blue Jays (62-52), who improved to 17-6 since the all-star break.
Chris Colabello had three hits, including two doubles, Aaron Sanchez pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Roberto Osuna worked around a one-out double for his 11th save of the season.
Kendall Graveman (6-8), who was traded from the Blue Jays along with Canadian Brett Lawrie for Josh Donaldson, gave up four runs – two earned – on five hits and one walk through 4 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander also struck out five batters in his return to Toronto.
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Billy Burns and former Blue Jay Danny Valencia had RBIs for the Athletics (51-63). Lawrie, in his first appearance at Rogers Centre since the off-season trade, was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
The Blue Jays had an inning-ending double play overturned in the first that cost them a run when the next batter, Valencia, ripped a double past a diving Kevin Pillar in centre field to score Josh Reddick from first base.
But the A’s lead was short lived as Toronto put up three runs in the bottom of the second thanks to sloppy Oakland defence.
Colabello hit a lead-off double and came in to score when a throwing error on shortstop Marcus Semien allowed Russell Martin to reach first base. Smoak then added to the lead, scoring Martin from first on an RBI double to left field, and crossed the plate himself on a Goins ground out.
“For as much as we’re notorious for hitting homers and doubles we have a lot of professional hitters, a lot of guys that grind out at-bats,” Colabello said of the Blue Jays’ versatility. “At any point in time, (batters) 1 through 9, we have guys that understand the situation and what they’re trying to accomplish. … I think that gets overlooked.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin was less than pleased with his team’s performance in the second inning.
“That might be the worst inning we’ve played this year,” he said. “All the way around, we basically gave them the whole inning. It should have been a different game if we played any kind of defence that inning.”
Bautista’s solo shot off Graveman in the fifth inning extended Toronto’s lead to 4-1.
Hutchison left the game to a loud ovation from the 39,381 in attendance after giving up a single to Semien in the eighth. It was the first hit he allowed since the third inning.
Semien scored on Burns’ RBI single off Sanchez to make it 4-2.
©2015The Canadian Press