JOSH DUBOW,AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Inge made quite a first impression in his first home game with the Oakland Athletics.
Inge hit a game-ending grand slam to cap a five-run ninth inning rally that led the A’s to a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
“I’m so happy here right now,” Inge said. “I fit in. It’s a new start for me. I welcomed it. I know we have a young ballclub, but they can play. I’m honored to be a part of this ballclub and trying to help them win. That’s what feels the best.”
After being released by the Detroit Tigers on April 26 after hitting just .100 in his first nine games this season, Inge has quickly made an impact for the A’s.
Josh Donaldson, Eric Sogard and Luke Hughes shared third base to start the season for Oakland and batted .111 with eight errors through the first 20 games. Inge has two homers and eight RBIs in his past two games for an A’s team that has matched a season high with three straight wins.
“He’s just a gamer,” said shortstop Cliff Pennington, who hit a game-tying single in the ninth. “He’s a guy it doesn’t matter what he’s done all game long. In that situation, that’s who you want up. What he brings to the table defensively is something else.”
The Blue Jays took the lead in the top of the ninth off Grant Balfour (1-1) when Eric Thames hit a leadoff triple and scored on Kelly Johnson’s two-out single before the A’s rallied to win it in the bottom half.
Michael Taylor, who struck out his first three at-bats, hit an opposite-field fly that landed just inside the right-field line for a leadoff double off Francisco Cordero (1-2) and went to third on Jemile Weeks’ sacrifice. Pennington followed with an RBI single to right field to tie the game.
Pennington stole second and Cordero intentionally walked Josh Reddick. After a passed ball advanced the runners, Cordero intentionally walked Jonny Gomes and the Blue Jays brought in a fifth infielder.
Inge then ended it with a drive into the left-field seats. It was his seventh career game-ending homer and the first game-ending slam for Oakland since Mark Ellis did it June 8, 2008, against the Angels.
“I was trying to get it in the outfield. That’s all I was trying to do at that point,” Inge said. “They loaded the infield with infielders and were trying to get me to hit it on the ground.”
Inge had been was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and hit into one double play before delivering the biggest blow of the night.
It was another rough night for Cordero, who has blown three saves in his past four appearances.
“You can say it’s been frustrating,” Cordero said. “You got a team that keeps battling back, comes back and take the lead and gave me the ball in the ninth inning and I just blew it again. It’s my third blown save in a row. I have to pitch better or I’m going to find myself either out of that situation or maybe out of the team. I have to do my job. It doesn’t matter how but I have to do it or I’m not going to have a job at all.”
Manager John Farrell said it was too soon after the game to consider changing closers, but said Cordero needs to do a better job putting hitters away.
“The three outs in the ninth are pretty tough for us right now,” he said.
The A’s returned from a successful 5-4 East Coast road trip to a dose of bad news. Opening day starter Brandon McCarthy had to be skipped in the rotation because of a sore right shoulder and then cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes was scratched about an hour before the game after injuring the back of his left hand in batting practice. Cespedes will have an X-ray and MRI on Wednesday.
The teams traded two-run homers in the first five innings with Johnson connecting with his seventh of the season in the second for Toronto off Jarrod Parker and Reddick answering with his team-leading sixth in the fifth inning for Oakland against Ricky Romero.
NOTES: Romero allowed two runs, five hits and five walks with seven strikeouts in six innings. … Six of Johnson’s seven homers have either tied the game or given Toronto the lead. … A’s reliever Ryan Cook pitched a perfect eighth and has allowed only three hits with 15 strikeouts in 15 2-3 scoreless innings this season. … McCarthy was pushed back to Saturday against Detroit after complaining of a sore shoulder after Sunday’s bullpen session. He will throw a bullpen session Thursday to see if he will make his next start. … The series finale Wednesday features a matchup of former college teammates at California when Tyson Ross takes the mound for Oakland against Toronto’s Brandon Morrow. The two were teammates at Cal in 2006.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)