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Liriano starts opener as Blue Jays host A's

TORONTO -- Francisco Liriano has pitched a total of 3 2/3 innings over his past two starts.

The Toronto Blue Jays left-hander made a combined 104 pitches over those starts, so he should have plenty in the tank when he starts Monday on three days' rest in the opener of a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics at the Rogers Centre.

This is a matchup of teams that stand last in their respective divisions.

The Blue Jays (44-54) completed a 10-game road trip Sunday with an 8-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Toronto, last in the American League East, was 3-7 for the trip that opened its schedule after the All-Star break, losing all three games in Cleveland.

It ended a frustrating trip for the Blue Jays, who are home for their next seven games.

"We had a chance to win a couple of games that we didn't win, and that changes things," Toronto manager John Gibbons said after the game Sunday. "Today was just a (bad) game all the way around. You couldn't describe it any better than that."

Cleveland starter Corey Kluber struck out 14 Blue Jays over 7 2/3 innings.

The Athletics (44-54) won their rain-delayed game in New York on Sunday, posting a 3-2 victory over the Mets on homers by Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and Matt Chapman. They are last in the AL West and are 5-4 since the All-Star break.

The A's got solid work from three relievers Sunday, with Santiago Casilla picking up his 16th save of the season.

"We feel like we can swing the bats a little bit," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said after his team blew a 5-0 lead Saturday. "It's just on the other end."

The bullpen struggles deepened after relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson were traded last weekend to the Washington Nationals, but Daniel Coulombe, Blake Treinen and Casilla each threw a scoreless inning Sunday.

As for Liriano, he was moved into the rotation slot created when Aaron Sanchez was placed on the disabled list with recurring blister problems on his right middle finger.

Liriano (5-5, 6.15 ERA) will be facing Chris Smith, a 36-year-old right-hander who will be making his third career major league start after his contract was selected from Triple-A Nashville on July 8.

Smith will start Monday because Jharel Cotton, who is dealing with blister problems, will continue his rehabilitation assignment with Nashville.

"Why not, right?" Smith said Sunday at Citi Field before the A's played the Mets. "When I found out, I was just excited I get to start again. I found out I had the Blue Jays and was like, 'Woo hoo!'"

Smith (0-0, 2.77 ERA) became the oldest pitcher in Athletics history to make his first major league start. His first 63 appearances were as a reliever.

He allowed six hits and three runs in six innings and did not factor in the decision in Oakland's 4-3 win at Seattle on July 8. Smith allowed two runs (one earned) in seven innings Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays and again did not factor in the decision.

"I'm going to keep doing it until the A's say I can't do it anymore," Smith said. "Then I'll say, 'What do you got for me now?' Maybe I'll throw BP or help clean dugouts."

Things are not so upbeat for Liriano. He lasted only two innings in his July 15 start at Detroit because of a stiff neck.

He was yanked Thursday against the Boston Red Sox after 1 2/3 innings at Fenway Park because he was ineffective. In the two starts combined, Liriano allowed nine hits, five walks and eight runs (seven earned).

Liriano has made two starts in his career on three days' rest, going 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA.

In 17 career games (15 starts) against Oakland, Liriano is 5-4 with a 4.30 ERA. He is 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in one start against Oakland this season, allowing two runs in five innings.

Smith has faced Toronto once in his career, a relief appearance in 2008 for the Red Sox, when he allowed six hits and four runs in 2 1/3 innings.

The season has been disappointing for the Blue Jays, who have reached the AL Championship Series two years in a row and had hopes of going to the postseason again.

"I'm still confident we can play better than we have after the break," Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista said. "We have plenty of division games left, and we just have to play better from here on out and we'll be right in the middle of things."

Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki missed his second straight game Sunday with a groin injury but could return Monday.

Oakland reliever Ryan Dull could return from a strained knee for the finale of the series with the Blue Jays. First baseman Ryon Healy missed his second game in a row Sunday after being hit on the head by a bad hop Friday.

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