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Game #20: 'Just enough to lose.' Oakland A's fall 7-6 to Astros

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The Houston Astros swept the Oakland Athletics for the first time in history.

Bob Melvin argues with home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott after Wolcott ejected Melvin for arguing balls and strikes.
Bob Melvin argues with home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott after Wolcott ejected Melvin for arguing balls and strikes.
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The seagulls flowing into the Coliseum at the end of the game represent my thoughts about the ending of this game: Lots of turds. Strangely, the bullpen was actually pretty good for most of it, but normally great defenders coughed up today's runs. The A's fall to 8-12, are 0-7 in day games, and have lost four in a row.

Boners, boners everywhere

In the third inning, Ike Davis misplayed a ground ball partly because Drew Pomeranz wasn't much help covering first base. I listened on radio and didn't really write down a good description of the play, but Alex Hall says:

It looked like the ball had some topspin on it, which isn't unusual when it's chopped so close to the plate like that. Ike tried to do it all, and with a normal bounce he probably could have fielded it and beaten the runner to first, but there was no reason to do that. Pomeranz would have gotten to the bag in time, and Ike has shown that he can make a quick and accurate flip to the pitcher covering. He's been great in the field so far, but he tried to do too much on that one and he needs to take it down a notch and work with his teammates. The bad bounce wasn't his fault, but the fact that he let it eat him up is.

Marisnick advanced to second on a stolen base.

Jose Altuve reached on a scorching comebacker that went into Drew Pomeranz's back such that Vince Cotroneo said that Altuve basically turned Pomeranz's number 13 into a "one point three." Pomeranz could not find the ball, though his back stopped Jake Marisnick from scoring. He scored anyway on Evan Gattis's base hit, as did Jose Altuve. Colby Rasmus drove in Jed Lowrie from third base on a single, himself.

The A's took a 6-5 lead to the ninth, with Tyler Clippard trying to complete a four-out save. Jake Marisnick reached on a single up the middle to lead off. The next batter was Jose Altuve, and he hit a sharp ground ball to Brett Lawrie with Marisnick running. Despite the in-motion Marisnick, Lawrie threw to second, and Marisnick beat the throw. Marcus Semien did not help matters by dropping Lawrie's low throw to deny any hope of throwing out Altuve on the relay.

Altuve was credited with a fielder's choice, and the fielder chose badly. Instead of one out and a runner on second, it was nobody out and two fast runners on.

Those fast runners completed a double steal, with Marisnick just getting his hand under Brett Lawrie's glove:

Clippard struck out George Springer, and the A's elected to walk Jed Lowrie with first base open to set up the double play. Evan Gattis came up, and hit a chin-level line drive out towards Sam Fuld in center:

Sam Fuld still had a chance to make a play, but he broke in when he should have broken out and lost all hope of at least holding Gattis to a sacrifice fly. Two runs scored on what should be, nine times out of 10, a pop fly. There was still plenty to be desired from the pitch calling, however (chart from Brooks Baseball):

Perhaps Vogt had "infield fly ball pitcher" stuck in his head or didn't trust himself to block a ball in the dirt with the bases loaded.

Clippard struck out the next two batters, but Luke Gregerson retired the A's quietly in the bottom of the ninth on six pitches to seal up Houston's first-ever sweep over Oakland.

Positives

The bullpen was quite good, especially in the middle innings. Fernando Abad retired his three batters on fly balls. Ryan Cook retired his three batters and showed great control, including rearing back to strike out Jed Lowrie with 96 MPH gas. Evan Scribner got into trouble on two ground ball singles but struck out Marwin Gonzalez to record the second out of the eighth inning before giving way to Tyler Clippard.

The offense took advantage of a stumbling Asher Wojciechowski. In the second, Ike Davis worked his ninth walk, and Josh Reddick tripled home Davis. Brett Lawrie hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 in the early going. The A's tied it up at five with a four-hit fourth inning that knocked Wojciechowski out after the inning ended, and followed up with a seventh-inning run to take the 6-5 lead that the Astros snatched away in the ninth.

The A's did make a couple of good defensive plays. In the fifth, Ike Davis made a diving catch near the Astros bullpen fighting a bright sky and swirling winds. In the sixth, Craig Gentry showed his speed to make a sliding snowcone catch on a fly ball to left.

Bob Melvin also showed home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott that he was mad as hell and he wasn't going to take Wolcott's strike zone anymore. Gentry was called out on a terribly high pitch in the third inning, but Jason Castro drew a walk in the fourth that scored one batter later on Jake Marisnick's home run.

This was the second time Quinn Wolcott has tossed Bob Melvin at the Coliseum. The last time was on June 21, 2014 against the Boston Red Sox when I called him "wool-eared Wolcott."

Coming up

The A's will take what seems to be a much-needed off day on Monday before finishing their six-game homestand with three against the Los Angeles Angels. But today it's the American League West leading Houston Astros 7, and the third place Oakland Athletics 6.