Jays aim to get back on track in Oakland

Ready for the third of four weekend clashes with the Oakland Athletics at the Coliseum, the visiting Toronto Blue Jays hope to wake up their bats this evening after struggling at the plate on Friday.

Toronto hurler Henderson Alvarez, who will get the ball tonight, made just his second career start on Monday against the Mariners and was in line to earn the victory despite allowing four runs in five innings. Unfortunately, the bullpen blew the lead and prevented Alvarez from earning his first win as an MLB starter. The 21-year-old righty has posted seven strikeouts with two walks in 10 2/3 innings.

He did face this Oakland team in his first-ever start and yielded three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of a no decision.

Gio Gonzalez is slated to oppose Alvarez tonight, and while his 9-11 record is far from impressive, his 3.36 ERA is strong. He has posted 146 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings of action but has yet to throw a complete game through 24 starts. On Monday, he permitted four earned runs in six innings of a loss to Baltimore.

Gonzalez struggled in his only previous start versus Toronto this season and is 1-2 lifetime versus the Blue Jays with a 4.01 ERA.

Yesterday, Josh Willingham's two-run homer in the first inning was all Rich Harden and the Athletics bullpen needed to down the Blue Jays, 2-0, in the second game of this series.

Harden (4-2) struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and four walks for Oakland, which has won three of four overall. Grant Balfour and Andrew Bailey both hurled an inning of relief to finish off the shutout.

Willingham's homer was the only blemish for Brett Cecil (4-6), who otherwise allowed three hits and five walks over seven frames.

The Blue Jays had won three in a row and were coming off a 7-0 victory in the series opener. They had a chance to get to Harden in the first inning when an error and two walks loaded the bases, but Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus all went down swinging against the A's starter.

Willingham golfed his 21st home run of the season in the bottom half, the only extra-base hit recorded by the A's all night. Jemile Weeks walked ahead of the blast.

Jose Bautista singled and walked three times for Toronto, which went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Harden has 11 career double-digit strikeout games, his previous coming against the Mets on September 5, 2009

With yesterday's victory, Oakland tied the season series with Toronto at four wins apiece.