TORONTO (AP) — Robbie Ray struck out 10 while pitching one-hit ball into the seventh inning, Marcus Semien hit his 35th home run and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Oakland Athletics 8-0 Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.
Bo Bichette went 4 for 4, scored twice and drove in a run and Alejandro Kirk homered as the Blue Jays reached double figures in hits for the fourth straight game.
Winners of seven of eight, the Blue Jays (73-62) are a season-best 11 games above .500. Toronto’s 13 shutouts are most in the AL.
Ray (11-5) reached double digits in strikeouts for the fourth straight start, the first Blue Jays pitcher to achieve the feat. The only hit he allowed in 6 2-3 innings was a one-out double by Khris Davis in the fifth.
Ray’s 2.60 ERA is tops among AL pitchers.
“He’s probably the best pitcher in baseball right now, from what I’ve seen,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “When he takes that mound, everybody feels he’s going to give you a chance.”
The left-handed Ray has 212 strikeouts this season, second to New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (215) in the majors.
“The fastball was really good today,” Ray said. “I had command of it on both sides of the plate. I felt like it had an extra gear to it today. I leaned heavy on that.”
Both Ray and Cole have nine double-digit strikeout games, tied for the big league lead.
Ray had victories in back-to-back starts for the first time since winning at Tampa Bay on July 11 and beating Texas on July 16.
The playoff-contending A’s have lost 14 of 20 after winning 12 of the previous 15. Still, Oakland manager Bob Melvin expects his team to bounce back.
“I think the best part of our season is yet to come,” Melvin said. “I think we’re going to get home and we’re going to play our best stretch of baseball.”
Oakland’s Starling Marte returned to the lineup in center field after sitting out Saturday, one day after he was hit on the helmet by a fastball from Toronto rookie right-hander Alek Manoah. Marte went 0 for 4.
Blue Jays center fielder Randal Grichuk made an incredible defensive play in the first, a running catch on Marte’s liner to left-center. Even Marte gestured in approval of Grichuk’s great grab on his way back to the dugout.
“I almost fell on the mound, I was so excited,” Ray said. “That was an amazing catch.”
Semien hit a solo home run in the third against his former team. Four batters later, Kirk hit a three-run drive off Cole Irvin (9-13).
Irvin allowed seven runs and eight hits in 2 1-3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. He is winless in three starts.
“They got on him early,” Melvin said. “They got some pitches in the middle of the plate and they hit them hard.”
In allowing two home runs, Oakland pitchers ended a five-game streak in which they had allowed at least three homers per game.
Canadian decathlete Damian Warner, who won gold at the recent Olympics in Tokyo, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Oakland’s Elvis Andrus stepped out of the batter’s box and Ray stepped off the rubber when several jets from the nearby Canadian International Airshow roared over the open stadium in the fifth.
Athletics: Melvin said RHP Chris Bassitt (right facial fracture) is “progressing the way you would want” in his recovery and could soon resume throwing. Bassitt was struck on the side of the head by a line drive in an Aug. 17 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Bassitt is 12-3 with a 3.06 ERA in 24 starts.
Blue Jays: LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (12-8, 3.92) starts in the Bronx on Monday afternoon as the Blue Jays begin another pivotal wild card series, this time against the New York Yankees. RHP Jameson Taillon (8-5, 4.44) goes for the Yankees.
Athletics: Oakland returns home for a three-game series against the White Sox that begins Tuesday. RHP James Kaprielian (7-4, 3.87) starts for the Athletics. Chicago has not named a starter.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Ian Harrison, The Associated Press