The Toronto Blue Jays hope left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu bounces back from a disappointing first start as they try to clinch their series with the visiting Oakland Athletics on Saturday afternoon.

Ryu will be starting on five days’ rest after Ross Stripling moved from the bullpen to start Friday night in the opener of the three-game series against the undermanned Athletics. Stripling pitched four scoreless innings in Toronto’s 4-1 victory.

“He gave us exactly what we needed,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Great job by him. …

“He doesn’t mind when he goes back to the bullpen. When we tell him we need a start from him, he has no problem with that.”

Stripling added, “All my pitches were working and gave us a chance to stay in the ballgame.”

In his first start of the season on Sunday, Ryu (0-0, 16.20 ERA) allowed six runs, five hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings in Toronto’s 12-6 loss to the Texas Rangers. The Blue Jays led 6-1 until Texas scored six runs in the fourth. Ryu did not factor in the decision.

The Blue Jays feel they have a solid rotation, but some of the starters began slowly.

“Obviously, the first time through wasn’t what we expected overall and as a staff we want to be a lot better than that,” Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker told the Toronto Sun on Thursday. “We know what we are. It’s really just trying to find our groove and not forcing it, trying to make things happen. The staff knows what they’re capable of so it’s just a matter of getting back to making pitches, being aggressive in the zone and not trying to do too much.”

Toronto’s Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios showed improvement in their second starts of the season, and now Ryu will get his chance. He is 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two career starts against Oakland.

The Athletics will start right-hander Paul Blackburn (1-0, 0.00 ERA). He was the winning pitcher Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays at St. Petersburg, Fla., allowing three hits and one walk while striking out seven in five innings. Oakland won 13-2. He is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA in two career appearances against the Blue Jays, both starts at Toronto.

After winning three of four games against the Rays, the Athletics entered the series in Toronto without some players.

Catcher Austin Allen and relievers A.J. Puk and Kirby Snead were placed on the restricted list on Friday. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty was also placed on the COVID-19 injured list, although the team didn’t say whether Piscotty tested positive.

Under COVID-19 restrictions, unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter Canada without special exemptions.

Oakland added catcher Christian Bethancourt, infielder Drew Jackson and pitchers Ryan Castellani and Zach Logue.

The Blue Jays got off to a good start Friday when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot in the first inning.

“As an opposing manager, you kind of go, ‘Oh, gosh, here he comes again,'” Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. “From a fan’s standpoint, it’s great for the game. You have to enjoy watching him.”

Kevin Smith, one of the players Oakland obtained from Toronto for Matt Chapman, had a double and a single against his former team on Friday.

–Field Level Media