OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Joe Blanton was just hoping to pitch the way he had in his first four starts. Getting his first major league win was a bonus.
“I wasn’t thinking about winning a whole lot lately,” Blanton said. “I tried to iron out some mechanics so I could get back to throwing like I can. It’s a little special but in five days I have to go back out and I need to keep working on things.”
Blanton had not made it out of the fifth inning in five of his previous six starts and that included an awful outing in Tamp Bay on May 25 in which he allowed eight runs while getting just one out.
“After the debacle in Tampa he’s rebounded very well,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “As an organization we feel he’s our future.”
Blanton got a big defensive play from Eric Byrnes, who also had a game-tying home run.
After Orlando Hudson and Frank Catalanotto singled to open the sixth, Vernon Wells hit a flyball to center field. Byrnes turned it into a double play when he threw out Hudson trying to advance to third.
“I look at that as the game,” Blanton said. “It was a huge double play. That was a great throw.”
Byrnes, who was in center only because Mark Kotsay sat out with tightness in his back, was more worried about catching the ball.
“I haven’t been playing a lot in center so I was going to worry about the baserunners after I caught the ball,” Byrnes said. “I don’t think it was a terrible play on him; I was just fortunate enough to make a good throw to get him.”
Byrnes hit his homer in the bottom of the sixth.
“All of a sudden Byrnes becomes clutch like he always does,” said Nick Swisher, who hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh. “Byrnes also caught the final out so I ran over to make sure I got the ball for Blanton. To finally get that first win, it’s a heck of a night for him.”
Vernon Wells and Alex Rios each homered for the Blue Jays, who lost their third in four games.
Blanton (1-5) won for the first time in 11 starts. He struck out three and walked one.
Wells hit a solo home run with two outs in the first and Rios homered with two outs in the second to give Toronto an early 2-0 lead.
Blanton settled down to retire the next 10 batters he faced and got out of a jam in the sixth.
“He made pitches when he needed and did a great job of keeping his team in the game,” Wells said. “He gave their offense a chance to come through.”
Former A’s starter Ted Lilly, making his 20th career start in Oakland, retired 13 of the first 15 hitters he faced and looked nothing like the pitcher who brought a 9.92 road ERA into the contest.
Lilly (3-6) ran into trouble by walking Chavez with two outs in the sixth. Byrnes then connected for his fifth home run of the year, tying the game at 2-all.
The former All-Star had an 8.56 ERA against his former team in three previous career starts, his highest against any AL opponent. His seven wins in Oakland are his most anywhere except for Toronto.
“I’m pretty discouraged,” Lilly said. “Right now it seems like I’m finding a way to lose. That at-bat to Byrnes was a situation where I needed to make good pitches. You can only get away with mistakes for so long an he ended up making me pay.”
Bobby Crosby walked and Johnson doubled to open the seventh against Lilly, who fell to 0-4 on the road. Swisher hit a sharp grounder up the middle, which Russ Adams dove to stop but then—sitting on the ground—threw wildly to first, allowing a second run to score.
Lilly allowed four runs on six hits in six-plus innings with three walks and two strikeouts.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons missed the game because of an illness. He was released from a San Francisco hospital and is expected to manage on Sunday. Bench coach Ernie Whitt ran the team. … 1B coach Mickey Brantley missed his second straight game to attend his son’s high school graduation in Florida. … The A’s hit more than one homer in a game for the first time since May 6 and just the fifth time all season. … RHP Kiko Calero is expected to be activated off the DL in the next few days.