TORONTO – Gio Gonzalez cruised into the sixth inning. The left-hander looked ready to put his rough stretch behind him.
Then it all fell apart — in a hurry.
Gonzalez allowed three consecutive batters to reach and Brett Lawrie hit a grand slam off Craig Breslow, sending the Oakland Athletics to an 8-4 loss at the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
Gonzalez (9-10) was charged with four runs and four hits in five-plus innings and is 0-4 with an 8.43 ERA in his past four starts. He walked five, one shy of his season high, and struck out four.
"I feel like I'm pitching a lot better than my performance is coming out" a frustrated Gonzalez said. "I feel good with my fastball. Everything is looking live, the curveball, the change-up. It's just the end results (stink). I can't explain it. I've just got to continue to battle through it."
Oakland manager Bob Melvin chose to focus on Gonzalez's performance between the second and fifth innings, when he retired 12 of 14.
"He was on the verge," Melvin said. "If he goes out there and has a clean (sixth) inning, that's going to be a real positive outing for him. Good pitchers go through difficult times, this isn't the best time of the season for him. He's going to have to work his way through it and he will."
Lawrie's drive to left on a 2-0 pitch from Breslow was his first career grand slam and gave the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead.
"It was everything I had imagined and more," said Lawrie, who was promoted from Triple-A on Friday. "It was a moment I'll never forget."
The 17th Canadian-born player in Blue Jays history, Lawrie pumped his fist repeatedly as he circled the bases, then traded enthusiastic high-fives with his amused teammates, firing his helmet to the ground as he reached the end of the dugout.
With the crowd of 19,541 standing, he came out of the dugout for a brief curtain call, waving from the top step.
"It's just the heat of the moment," Lawrie said of his exuberant celebration. "I've always been a guy who's been fired up. I like to get fired up and I like to get everyone else going. I like to be that spark and try and make everyone better and get everyone going.
"I was so caught up in the moment and I was so fired up," he added. "I don't think I hurt anybody but I don't think a lot of people are going to shake my hand from now on."
Breslow said he wasn't paying attention to Lawrie as giving up the blast, but watched the replay when he returned to the clubhouse.
"I could tell it was a little bit louder when I came in and saw the celebration," Breslow said. "It was a big hit. I probably wouldn't have chosen to celebrate it that way but he got the best of me."
Lawrie also doubled off the wall in left in the eighth and went 2 for 4. He's hitting .389 in five games since his promotion.
Before the game, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, manager John Farrell and several players angrily denied an ESPN story that Toronto has been stealing signs with the help of someone stationed in the outfield.
Then both benches and bullpens emptied in the eighth when Oakland's Jordan Norberto hit Yunel Escobar on the left arm with a pitch. Escobar yelled and took several steps toward the mound but was restrained by catcher Kurt Suzuki, while Norberto walked toward the plate, responding to Escobar with his arms spread wide. No punches were thrown and the field was soon cleared.
Farrell, however, was just as upset as his shortstop.
"I can't sit here at this moment and say it was intentional but when you miss that wide, particularly to your glove side, it makes one wonder," he said.
Norberto and Melvin denied any intent.
The Athletics were seeking their fourth consecutive win, all coming on the road. Instead, they dropped to 6-11 in their last 17 games in Toronto, dating to 2009.
Casey Janssen (4-0) got one out for the victory and Jesse Litsch gave up a ninth-inning homer to Josh Willingham but worked the final 2 2-3 innings for his first career save.
Adam Lind gave the Blue Jays the lead with an RBI single in the first, but the Athletics answered with a three-run fourth against rookie right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who was making his major league debut.
David DeJesus hit a one-out solo drive to center, his eighth, giving Oakland at least one home run in each of the past eight games.
Conor Jackson followed with a single and scored on Ryan Sweeney's double to left-center. Suzuki struck out before Scott Sizemore singled home Sweeney. Jemile Weeks followed with a drive to deep center, but Colby Rasmus made a running catch on the warning track.
Alvarez allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Toronto got the rookie off the hook with a five-run sixth. Lind led off with a double and Edwin Encarnacion walked before both runners advanced on Suzuki's throwing error. Rasmus walked to load the bases and Gonzalez was replaced by Breslow, who surrendered an RBI single to Aaron Hill. After J.P. Arencibia struck out, Lawrie launched his second homer.
Encarnacion hit an RBI double off Trystan Magnuson in the seventh and Rajai Davis singled in Lawrie in the eighth.
Willingham hit a two-out drive to left in the ninth. It was his sixth homer in 11 games and No. 19 overall.
NOTES: The A's have gone deep 13 times in the past eight games. ... Blue Jays RHP Dustin McGowan (shoulder) pitched four innings at Double-A New Hampshire, allowing no runs and one hit. McGowan last pitched in the majors in 2008. ... Oakland manager Bob Melvin said OF Coco Crisp, who has missed three games with sore right calf, is not likely to play this series.