Loaiza wins season debut, Cust homers as Athletics beat Blue Jays 4-1 to finish sweep

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TORONTO (AP)—Just as they do almost every August, the Oakland Athletics are going on a tear.

Esteban Loaiza won his season debut by outpitching A.J. Burnett, and the Athletics beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.

Oakland (64-64) has won four straight and eight of 10, reaching .500 for the first time since it was 44-44 at the All-Star break. Toronto dropped to .500 at 63-63.

“It happens every year,” A’s outfielder Nick Swisher said. “Considering all the injuries and stuff that we’ve had, it’s taken a little longer to get it going but if we can continue to play this kind of baseball, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. We’re putting a lot of pressure on other teams.”

Oakland is 14-7 this month and, with eight games to play, is trying to win 20 games in August for the sixth time in seven years.

“It’s coming together,” manager Bob Geren said. “The atmosphere is great. The team is right there and I really feel like we all think we can win every night. It’s a good feeling.”

Sidelined since March with neck and knee injuries, Loaiza (1-0) allowed one run and three hits in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked two, throwing 110 pitches.

“He looked like he was in midseason form,” Geren said. “It’s great to have him back and it’s nice to see that kind of performance, especially the first time out.”

After Aaron Hill’s solo homer in the fifth, Loaiza retired 12 of his next 13 batters before Reed Johnson singled with two outs in the eighth.

“I threw all my pitches for strikes and felt comfortable with everything,” Loaiza said.

Alan Embree finished the four-hitter for his 16th save in 19 chances.

Burnett (7-7) gave up four runs—one earned—and four hits in seven innings with nine strikeouts and three walks. It was his first loss in three starts since he came off the disabled list Aug. 12.

Oakland scored four runs in the seventh, thanks to a pair of errors.

Jeff DaVanon reached on an error by first baseman Matt Stairs, who couldn’t handle a throw from shortstop John McDonald. One out later, Jack Cust hit his team-leading 21st homer for a 2-1 lead.

“The whole momentum changed when Jack hit that home run,” Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis said. “That was huge for us.”

Marco Scutaro grounded out, Dan Johnson walked and Ellis hit an RBI double. Ellis scored from second when Hill fumbled a sharp grounder to second by Jack Hannahan.

“What’s been costly lately is our defensive errors,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We’ve made some great plays along the way to save some runs but it’s caught up with us a bit lately. In tight games, that’s really magnified.”

Toronto’s Frank Thomas was thrown out at second base in the second and after holding up to make sure Gregg Zaun’s liner fell in front of Nick Swisher in right. Swisher fielded the ball on a hop and threw to Scutaro.

“Frank’s not the quickest of cats,” Swisher said about Thomas, his teammate in Oakland last season.

Notes

The Blue Jays have hit four homers in their past two games, matching their total from the previous 13 games. … Toronto 3B Troy Glaus (plantar fasciitis) was scratched from the starting lineup and replaced by Russ Adams. … Loaiza was the 51st player Oakland used this season, the most in the major leagues. Oakland has matched a team record by using the disabled list 22 times.

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