TORONTO -- When a circle of reporters closed in around A's starting pitcher Scott Kazmir after Friday's 3-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, he described for the scrum one definitive pitch and one big mistake.
Kazmir couldn't do much about the fastball Steve Tolleson sent over the left field fence for a two-run homer in the second inning. He made a good pitch but said the Jays second baseman unleashed an even better swing.
But the veteran left-hander wishes he could take back the third-inning pickoff attempt. Instead of nailing Kevin Pillar at second base, Kazmir's pickoff throw sailed into center field, allowing Pillar to move up 90 feet and setting him up to score the eventual game-winning run on a Jose Reyes ground out.
Where Tolleson's homer was simply high-level hitting, Kazmir says the botched pickoff and subsequent run were preventable.
"It turned out to be costly for the game," said Kazmir, whose record drops to 5-2. "It was completely, 100 percent my fault. I should have held on to it, but it ended up being the difference-maker in the game."
Friday night's series opener matched a pair of division leaders, and two of the hottest teams in baseball.
The Jays had won eight of their previous 10 games heading into Friday and had started the week with a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Friday's win in front of 21,007 spectators pushed their American League East-leading record to 27-22.
Oakland, meanwhile, drops to 30-18 after losing for just the eighth time in 26 road games.
Friday's game also marks the first win of the season for Jays starter Liam Hendriks, who hadn't started a major league game since last September, when he was with the Minnesota Twins.
A's bench coach Chip Hale, filling in as manager while Bob Melvin attended his daughter's college graduation in New York, remembered Hendriks as a solid pitcher who threw a lot of strikes when he faced the A's last season. He said the Hendriks the team faced Friday night was a vastly improved version of the same pitcher.
While Kazmir needed 57 pitches to complete the first three innings, Hendriks needed just 31 and offered precious few opportunities to an Oakland lineup that entered Friday ranked first in the majors with 209 walks and second with 243 runs.
But in the fourth inning, Hendriks delivered a hanging breaking ball that Brandon Moss launched over the right field fence to cut the Jays' lead to 3-1. It was Moss' 11th homer of the season.
Over 52/3 innings Hendriks gave up just three hits and a single earned run, ringing up three strikeouts against three walks. Hendriks, a 25-year-old Australian, had walked just three batters all season at Triple-A Buffalo.
Hendriks faced three batters in the sixth inning before exiting the game to a standing ovation.
"He's the same guy we've seen, but obviously a little more confident," Hale said. "You've got to tip your cap to him."
Kazmir struggled to find his rhythm against a Blue Jays lineup that worked counts with patience and pounced on mistakes.
With one on in the second inning, third baseman Brett Lawrie extended Kazmir to a full count before grounding into a fielder's choice. Two batters later, Tolleson delivered his first home run of the season.
Alberto Callaspo's pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth cut the Blue Jays' lead to 3-2.
The A's threatened in the ninth when Coco Crisp hit a two-out double and stole third. But closer Casey Janssen got Jed Lowrie to ground out to end it.
A's (Jesse Chavez 4-1) at Toronto (R.A. Dickey 4-4), 10:07 a.m., CSNCA