Sweeney backs up Braden to lift A's to third win in last four

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ryan Sweeney started the season chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Now the Oakland Athletics' outfielder is helping chase pitchers out of games.

Sweeney tied his career high with three RBIs, Dallas Braden won for the first time in four starts and the A's beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-5 on Friday night.

"He's always had a nice level swing where he uses the whole field," Oakland manager Bob Geren said of Sweeney. "He's showing some pretty good strike zone discipline of late. Right now he's getting himself in good counts by being selective, aggressively selective, early in the count."

Sweeney was batting just .246 when he went on the disabled list June 3 after injuring his left knee while crashing into the outfield fence at Comiskey Park. In the 36 games since returning, Sweeney has hit .322 to raise his overall average 29 points to .275.

He had a two-run single in the first off Toronto starter Scott Richmond (6-6) and drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth to give Oakland a 6-0 lead.

"This game's all confidence and when you're hitting .240 or .250 ... I'd never done that before at any level so it was kind of frustrating," Sweeney said. "One thing I've tried to focus on these last couple of weeks is hitting with runners in scoring position because sometimes I haven't been focused enough in that situation. Today I just tried to bare down and get the job done."

Adam Lind had three hits, including a two-run homer in the seventh, for Toronto. The Blue Jays' third straight loss dropped them a season-high five games under .500.

"We didn't pitch well and we didn't play good defense," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston, whose team committed a season-high three errors. "We only had three guys in the lineup really hit ball; otherwise it wasn't a very good ball game."

Rajai Davis had two hits and scored twice for the A's, who traded shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins earlier in the day.

Braden wasn't his sharpest, giving up five runs in 6 2/3 innings, but the left-hander hung around long enough to win for the first time since July 11.

"Once again poor to quite poor," Braden said, summing up his performance. "For someone who tries to pride myself on pounding the strike zone, you give up four-pitch walks and you're putting guys on base left and right, it's a recipe for disaster."

Andrew Bailey pitched a scoreless ninth for his ninth consecutive save and 14th in 18 chances.

The loss came at the end of a long day for Toronto, which traded third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati for infielder Edwin Encarnacion, right-hander Josh Roenicke and a minor leaguer. The Blue Jays also listened to offers for Roy Halladay before deciding to keep the 2003 AL Cy Young winner.

The A's stayed busy, too, making their second trade in an eight-day span by moving Cabrera to Minnesota in exchange for a minor leaguer and cash. A week earlier, Oakland general manager Billy Beane dealt outfielder Matt Holliday to St. Louis for a trio of minor leaguers.

Braden (8-9) scattered eight hits and struck out one.

Cliff Pennington, called up from Triple-A Sacramento to replace Cabrera, started at shortstop and went 1-for-3 and scored a run.

Every Oakland starter had at least one hit and six different players scored. The A's led 4-0 then batted around during a four-run fourth to break the game open.

Toronto scored single runs in the third and fifth then cut the gap to 8-5 on Lind's 22nd homer of the season.

Richmond, making his first start since missing 21 games while on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis, lasted only three-plus innings and was charged with six runs. The right-hander struck out two and walked three.

"I never had to deal with missing 30 days in the middle of the season before but it's just executing the pitch when you are in the situation and you are ahead in the count," Richmond said. "They were able to get hits and keep innings going. I have a lot to work on for the next outing."

Game notes
Oakland manager Bob Geren said the plan is to give Pennington first crack at being the team's everyday shortstop. ... Davis batted .405 (15-for-37) in July. ... Encarnacion is expected to join the Blue Jays on Saturday. ... Toronto hit four doubles and leads the majors with 233.