Well, you can't blame Jason Hammel for this loss.
The A's didn't figure to score many runs against Dallas Keuchel, but they were able to work a run in the first thanks to a hard-fought walk from Coco Crisp, a bunt single by Gentry (ruled an error, but totally was not), and a clutch liner by Jonny Gomes after two groundouts. Things looked promising as Keuchel's pitch count was at 26. With five complete games on the season, it was imperative to get him out of the game and feast on the weak Astros bullpen.
Meanwhile, A's starter Hammel allowed a lot of loud contact but, thanks in large part to good defense and limiting his walks, was keeping the Astros at bay. The biggest scare was in the third inning, when the Astros had baserunners on second and third with two outs and Chris Carter at the plate. After watching a hanging curve by Hammel for a called strike, Carter lined a shot near the right field line that got out there in a hurry. Luckily for Hammel and the A's, Jonny Gomes made a sensational full extension diving catch to rob two runs and end the inning. But Carter got his revenge later on.
Gomes got it done on the offensive side in the next frame. First, he reached on a single. Nate Freiman followed with a liner off the out of town scoreboard in left field. Gomes got a great jump and continued hustling, scoring all the way from first. Freiman made it to third base, but the Astros' stingy scorer only credited him with a double. Unfortunately he was stranded there but the A's had a 2-0 lead.
Hammel finally broke, allowing a solo short to Dexter Fowler in the bottom half of the 4th. However, after that Hammel settled down and (dare I say?) cruised to complete seven. He retired the last 10 batters he faced, making intelligent two strike pitches, keeping hitters off-balance, and getting some hard hit lucky outs. In other words, he finally looked like the pitcher the A's traded for. He left in position to get the W with a 2-1 lead.
Keuchel managed to get through seven and handed the ball to Josh Fields to take the eighth inning. Vogt and Reddick pinch hit to face the right hander, but both were denied and Callaspo capped off his 0-4 night to end the inning. At that point the A's had left eight runners on base through eight innings.
As usual, the A's sent in setup man Luke Gregerson to handle the bottom of the eighth with a slim lead and the 9-1-2 hitters coming up. After the first out, Steven Vogt missed an Eric Sogard throw at first and the Astros had a baserunner in Robbie Grossman with the top of the order coming up. Gregerson immediately hit Jose Altuve with a pitch, setting up two on, one out and Chris Carter at the plate.
Carter completely destroyed Gregerson's 90 mph fastball down the heart of the plate to send the Astros to a 4-2 lead. By my count, that's Luke's third three-run bomb given up to lose a game for the A's. When the normally lights-out reliever decides to have a hiccup, apparently it turns into a full on raging puke fest.
The A's lost 4-2 and are now a game out of first after the Angels' 8-2 win over the Marlins.
Geovany Soto went 1-2 with a walk in his A's debut, and seemed to be able to work well with Jason Hammel, so that was an encouraging sign. But the A's missed yet another opportunity to put away a weaker team and keep the pressure on the Angels. Hopefully the AL West see-saw tips the A's way tomorrow.