The Oakland A's started their biggest road trip of the season with a bang.
Matt Stairs hit two homers, including a tiebreaking grand slam in the fifth inning, as the A's beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-8 Friday night in the opener of a three-game series between AL wild-card contenders.
The A's, who moved to within 1 ½ games of the Blue Jays, are in the midst of an important seven-game road trip with two more games against Toronto and four in Boston. The Red Sox moved a half-game ahead of the Blue Jays with their 11-6 win over Seattle.
The A's and Jays combined for eight home runs.
The A's, who are a major league best 41-19 at home, improved to 21-34 on the road.
Roy Halladay (8-5) started in place of David Wells, who is day-to-day with a sore back. Halladay was replaced by Paul Spoljaric after loading the bases with two outs in the fifth. Stairs followed with his second grand slam of the season to give Oakland a 7-3 lead.
"It looked like a home run derby, the difference was that we got one with the bases loaded," Oakland manager Art Howe said.
Stairs, who went 3-for-5 with five RBIs, gave Oakland an 8-5 lead in the seventh with his 29th homer.
"I didn't think I had enough of it, but it carried out," Stairs said.
Kevin Appier (12-9), acquired from Kansas City at the trading deadline, has won his first three starts with his new team. Appier gave up five runs, four hits incluing three homers in 5 2-3 innings.
"It was weird," Appier said. "They hit the ball well, the ball was carrying pretty good, but our guys edged them out."
After Tony Fernandez hit an RBI groundout in the sixth, the Blue Jays closed to within 8-7 on Stewart's two-out, two-run homer off T.J. Matthews in the seventh.
"I think Chavez's home run was the biggest one," Stairs said. "They came back with a homer, but Chavez gave us a two-run cushion."
Jason Giambi hit his 25th homer in the third for Oakland.
Halladay gave up six runs five earned and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. He tied a career high with eight strikeouts.
"The pitches I threw were hit well, they're going to go out of most parks, but everybody said the ball was carrying," Halladay said.
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