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Jays avoid sweep by A’s

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OAKLAND, Calif.—Two days after striking out on an unexpected two-seam fastball from John Axford, Toronto slugger Josh Donaldson had a much better view of things when he faced the Oakland Athletics’ reliever again.

This time Donaldson didn’t get fooled and prevented the Blue Jays from getting swept in their first series coming out of the all-star break.

Donaldson hit a tiebreaking two-run double off John Axford with two outs in the ninth against his former team as Toronto held on to beat Oakland 5-3 yesterday afternoon.

“He just started throwing a two-seamer and I didn’t really know he had that,” Donaldson said of Axford.

“He busted it out on me [Friday], a good pitch,” he noted.

“Today I was able to see it and get in a favourable count where I could zone it up more.”

Donaldson, who was traded to the Jays by the A’s prior to the 2015 season, also singled and scored in the first inning to help Toronto win after Oakland starter Rich Hill left the game with a blister on his finger after throwing just five pitches.

Troy Tulowitzki homered while Russell Martin and Justin Smoak added two hits apiece for Toronto.

The Jays needed it after losing their first two games coming out of the all-star break to fall four games behind first place Baltimore in the AL East.

“We desperately needed that as a team,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons.

“We had the little lead, they came back and tied it,” he noted.

“That’s a big win for us.”

Smoak and Junior Lake hit consecutive one-out singles off Axford (3-3) in the ninth.

Devon Travis then struck out looking before Donaldson lined a 2-1 pitch down the left-field line to drive in pinch-runner Andy Burns and Lake.

Donaldson, who played in Oakland from 2010-14, was greeted with a rousing ovation and chants of “MVP, MVP” from the crowd of 21,626 at the Coliseum.

“This is where it all started for me so it’s always nice to see,” Donaldson said. “There’s a few faces over there I remember.

“It’s good to see the fans and be able to play out here.”

Jason Grilli (3-1) retired three batters for the win.

Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 19th save.

Marcus Semien homered for the A’s.

“Nice little fight until the end,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin.

“They got a key hit when they had to in the ninth.”

Tulowitzki hit his 16th home run of the season off Sean Manaea in the fourth.

Semien, meanwhile, became just the fifth shortstop in A’s history to reach 20 home runs in one season with his solo shot off Toronto starter J.A. Happ in the sixth.

Yonder Alonso added a tying pinch-hit two-run double in the same inning.

Happ had won six-consecutive starts but left after getting hit by line drives twice, including once near his left elbow by Jake Smolinski’s liner in the fifth.

The Jays’ lefty allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and one walk.

“Hopefully he’ll be fine, but you never know if it’s going to stiffen up on him,” Gibbons said.

“He gutted it out,” Gibbons added. “That doesn’t surprise me.

“I’ve seen him get hit in the head.”

Elsewhere in the AL, Cleveland beat Minnesota 6-1, Tampa Bay upended Baltimore 5-2, Detroit doubled Kansas City 4-2, L.A. dumped Chicago 8-1, Houston pounded Seattle 8-1, and New York downed Boston 3-1.

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