A's score four in ninth to down Jays
Smith recovers after shaky first inning in Major League debut
TORONTO -- Greg Smith walked out of the tunnel for his first Major League start and was overcome by the panoramic view laid out before him.
"I remember walking through the dugout, seeing the stadium and all the fans sitting there," Smith said. "I'll never forget that."
Perhaps a little overwhelmed by the moment, Smith struggled in his opening inning, giving up three runs. But once the butterflies were out of the way, he was all business, following the fitful first with five shutout frames.
"It really wasn't that different, to tell you the truth," Smith said. "You're just more aware of what's going on and where you are. After that, it just felt normal; it just felt like a baseball game."
When he left after six, Smith had allowed only two earned runs on two hits, both singles. He walked five and struck out five.
"Once I got the first inning under my belt and I was able to settle into the flow of the game, it was regular," Smith said.
Mark Ellis backed the young lefty with four hits, including a game-tying triple in the ninth, as the A's rallied from 3-2 down to beat the Blue Jays 6-3.
"He was great," Ellis said of Smith. "He really reminds me of [Tigers pitcher] Kenny Rogers -- I don't know if I'm the only one -- just his aggressiveness out there, his mentality out there. He kind of pitches a little bit like him, too. He had so much poise for a young guy, and after that first inning, he was really good for us."
Bobby Crosby, who sealed the game with a two-run double in the ninth, said Smith rebounded nicely from the rough beginning.
"Once he got the jitters out, he was very impressive," Crosby said. "We can use that again in the future, for sure."
The late rally made a winner of another first-timer, right-hander Fernando Hernandez, who worked a hitless eighth.
"It was great; it was amazing," Hernandez said.
Called up from Triple-A Sacramento to start in place of the injured Justin Duchscherer, Smith found himself trailing just four batters into his first game, hitting the first man he faced, walking the second and striking out a batter before Vernon Wells lined a run-scoring single to center.
"During the inning, I had to kind of tell myself, 'Here we go, calm down, just hit a spot, back off a little bit,'" Smith said
A walk to Frank Thomas loaded the bases and two runs scored when Aaron Hill lifted a fly ball to center. Daric Barton took the relay from Ryan Sweeney, and, instead of firing to third, where Wells looked to be an easy out, he tried to catch Shannon Stewart at the plate. But catcher Kurt Suzuki couldn't handle Barton's high throw and the ball rolled into the dugout, allowing Wells to trot home.
"For a young guy to get out there and have a little bit of a rough inning, and for the defense to make a mistake behind him, then to turn around and keep throwing zeros on the scoreboard and limiting their hits to so few, it's very impressive," Oakland manager Bob Geren said.
Smith said his changeup helped him get back on track after the first, when he mostly used fastballs and cutters.
"It looked like they were getting some good swings on that, so I had to go to the changeup," he said. "That's what I stuck with, that seemed to be working."
It sure was. Smith set down eight in a row between the third and fifth, and struck out All-Star Alex Rios three times.
"He got his changeup working and kept the ball down in the zone," Geren said. "He kept pounding that strike zone and changing speeds."
The A's scratched out two runs in the fourth on an RBI single by Crosby and a bases-loaded walk to Jack Hannahan, but missed a chance to tie the game in the fifth, coming up empty in a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation.
Oakland was turned away again after loading the bases with one out in the eighth. Ryan Sweeney ended the threat by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.
"To have an opportunity that slips by and to see your guys come back the next inning, it shows you the heart of these guys and how hard they play every inning," Geren said. "It's certainly nice to see that."
John Arthur is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.