TORONTO — After spending most of spring training working on his curveball, Trevor Cahill’s extra effort is starting to pay off.
Cahill pitched eight strong innings for his first win of the season, Conor Jackson singled home the go-ahead run and the Oakland Athletics beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1, on Thursday.
“(Cahill) was outstanding,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “He had the strikeouts going, he had the good curveball going. He started developing that pitch at the end of last year and took it into spring training and kept working on it and working on it.
“I couldn’t be happier with how that pitch has progressed. Trevor has taken to it and it just adds something to his arsenal that’s going to help him.”
Known mostly for his sinker, Cahill spent hours in the spring working on his curve with A’s pitching coach Ron Romanick, and got good use out of it against the Blue Jays.
“I used it a lot first pitch and then if I was behind I threw it in there for a different look,” he said. “It’s helped me out a lot since two years ago when I was basically just fastball-changeup.”
Brian Fuentes closed out the game for his first save as the Athletics avoided a three-game sweep. Fuentes gave up a two-out single to Adam Lind before getting Aaron Hill to fly out.
Oakland trailed 1-0 going into the eighth when Andy LaRoche led off with a double and advanced to third on Cliff Pennington’s sacrifice.
Blue Jays starter Romero was angry at himself for not trying to get what looked to be an easy out at third on the bunt, settling for the safe play at first.
“The one thing you’re thinking as a pitcher is get an out in that situation,” Romero said. “It’s not a force play. I don’t know. I think I just didn’t make the play the way I should have and kind of kicked myself in the head for that one.”
Jason Frasor (1-1) replaced Romero and fanned Coco Crisp, but strike three was a wild pitch that bounced away from J.P. Arencibia, allowing LaRoche to score and Crisp to move to first.
“(Frasor) had a pretty nasty breaking ball,” Geren said. “If you can get a good hitter like Coco to be fooled that much it’s got to be a tough pitch to block, too.”
Crisp stole second and third before scoring on Jackson’s go-ahead single.
Shawn Camp replaced Frasor after Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch. Camp got Kevin Kouzmanoff to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Cahill (1-0) came in 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts against Toronto, but kept the Blue Jays in check. He allowed one run and three hits, walked none with seven strikeouts.
Cahill and Romero kept it scoreless through the first five innings, and the quick pace kept both pitchers sharp.
“I could tell from the get-go that (Romero) was going to have a good game and he did,” Cahill said. “His stuff was nasty. I felt like I sat down and got right back up. I think you get into a rhythm.”
Hill singled to start the second, stole second base and went to third on a grounder, but was stranded when Travis Snider struck out. Oakland’s Daric Barton hit a one-out double in the sixth and went to third on a grounder but Willingham was caught looking for the third out.
Toronto broke through in the bottom of the sixth when Arencibia led off with a double and scored on a two-out single to right by Jayson Nix. A stolen base put Nix in scoring position, but Jackson made a sliding catch on Lind’s sinking liner to end the threat.
Romero allowed one run and four hits in 7 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.
Oakland infielder Mark Ellis was held out of the starting lineup because of an inner-ear problem and dizziness, but came on as a defensive replacement in the eighth. It was the 1,000th game of his career.