Donaldson's first hit a big one for A's
Rookie's homer, Gonzalez's strong start lift Oakland
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson appeared slightly overwhelmed coming off his first Major League start on Saturday afternoon.
With sweat dripping down his wide-eyed face, he stood in the middle of the A's clubhouse whilst being shuffled from interview to interview, following a 4-3 win over Toronto.
"I haven't even eaten yet," Donaldson said, while catching his breath.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
The 24-year-old Donaldson, called up just the day before to lend a depleted A's catching staff an extra body, had quite the eventful day at the plate -- and behind it, too.
After watching three strikes pass his way without swinging in his first at-bat, he appeared very much comfortable facing Blue Jays starter Dana Eveland the second time around. With Jake Fox on third base, Donaldson launched his first Major League hit over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.
"I got a good pitch to hit," Donaldson said. "I was looking for something to pull, to try to get the guy in from third, and luckily, I got it up in the air enough to get it out."
The long ball calmed heavy nerves that got the best of Donaldson in his first career at-bat on Friday, when he pinch-hit for Landon Powell in the eighth inning and struck out on five pitches.
"[Donaldson] looked a little nervous out there last night," manager Bob Geren said. "His swing looked a little long. He struck out on an 88-mile-per-hour ball that probably looked 188 miles per hour."
"I think by the third pitch, I was about ready to pass out," Donaldson said. "Today, I felt a little more comfortable, and with Gio [Gonzalez] doing such a good job, that really helped me relax."
The A's battery mates spread a healthy dose of love around the clubhouse following the win, particularly for each other.
"You know what?" Gonzalez said, "He was the show today. He was great. I told him last night and this morning, 'You're going to go out there and swing the bat, and you're going to get a hit today. I know it.'"
The pitcher's prediction wasn't the only thing that proved to be true on Saturday, a day on which the lefty strung together 6 2/3 solid innings of two-run ball.
"Me and Gio sat down yesterday, and he said, 'This is what I do,' and he did it today," Donaldson said. "He threw all three pitches for strikes. His fastball was great. What I really liked about him out there today was that he challenged every hitter, whether it was Vernon Wells or whoever. He did a great job for us today."
Gonzalez, coming off a seven-inning shutout performance against the Indians, gave up just three hits and two walks while fanning eight en route to his third win of the season. He retired nine in a row before surrendering an infield hit to Fred Lewis, who scored Toronto's first run of the day on a fielder's choice in the fourth that resulted in an almost-ugly play at the plate.
"I thought Fred Lewis was about to kill me," Donaldson said. "He's not a small guy, and he came on a little bit as the throw was coming in. I don't know what that collision would have been like."
Following the play, Gonzalez was then tagged with his second run in the seventh, when reliever Tyson Ross allowed inherited runner Jose Bautista to score on an RBI double from Lyle Overbay, who in turn scored the Blue Jays' third run of the game, thanks to a Lewis double.
Ross got out of the inning, though, and Brad Ziegler and Andrew Bailey combined for two perfect innings to hand Gonzalez a much-deserved victory and halt the club's four-game losing streak.
"That was definitely one of the better games I've seen from Gio," Geren said. "His fastball was as good as ever. His velocity was way up, and he was able to elevate it. Very nice performance, one we needed as a team."
After watching just five runs cross the plate in the first two contests of the four-game set, Oakland's offense on Saturday rounded up four runs and 10 hits to edge the Blue Jays and beat former A's pitcher Eveland. Rajai Davis and Eric Patterson each notched a pair of hits and an RBI to complement Donaldson's game-changing homer.
"I [couldn't] care less about the home run if we don't win," the rookie catcher said. "That's what we're here to do -- win ballgames. ... I hope that's why everyone's here."
For now, Donaldson will cherish the home run ball that was thrown back over the fence -- a move he appreciated, especially since he broke his bat while grounding out to first in the eighth.
First things first, though.
"I'm going to go call my mom," the Alabama native said, "even though it costs $5 a minute here."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.