Apologies in advance if this recap is a little choppy. I'm having major technical problems and am trying to get this up before my computer inevitably freezes again.
The A's take 2 out of 3 from the Astros but did not play nearly well enough to earn a Sweemper. They struggled all day against Doug Fister and our young pitcher reminded us that he is still young and figuring things out.
Mengden Plays With Fire...
Daniel Mengden did not have a very good day, though honestly things could have been much worse. After an incredible debut with the A's consisting of 4 fantastic starts, Mengden has come back down to Earth and has been scuffling on the mound. His confidence, deception, and pitch repertoire point towards a solid pitcher in a year or two's time, so there's nothing to be upset about here. We just have to keep our expectations realistic despite the incredible debut of the young pitcher. He got rushed through the minors and still needs some seasoning. The confidence is there but the command is not (or at least, was not today), and the Astros did Mengden no favors by being very selective in the pitches they swung at.
Things did not begin well for the mustached Mengden. With one out, he gave up a bunt, a single, and a walk to load the bases. Mengden induced a much-needed grounder, but the ball wasn't hit hard enough for a double play and a run came across the plate to give the Astros an early 1-0 lead. Mengden escaped the 1st with only limited damage done, but a promising start it was not.
Things continued to be rocky in the 2nd inning. After a couple of quick outs, Mengden walked Jason Castro and then yielded a towering double to Springer which brought Castro home and put the Astros up 2-0. Mengden gave up another walk to Marwin Gonzalez and then took a sharply hit ball to the foot from Altuve to again load the bases. Mengden, not sharp at all to start things off, walked home a run to put the Astros up 3-0 before securing the final out of the inning. Through just 2 innings, he had thrown 52 pitches, only 28 of which were strikes.
Mengden finally had a good inning in the 3rd. He gave up a soft single to AJ Reed, but was efficient with his pitch count and notched a couple of strikeouts to put the A's back at the plate quickly.
Continued success for Mengden in the 4th - he had his first (and only) 3-up, 3-down inning.
Unfortunately we were back into choppy waters in the 5th. Mengden opened the inning by walking Correa on 4 pitches. He also hit Gattis with a pitch to put two runners on, but got some timely strikeouts to finish the inning. Through 5 innings, Mengden had thrown 101 pitches and was poised to get yanked before going out for the 6th. 5 innings and 3 runs is honestly better than I would have guessed after watching the first two innings, so I'll take it.
...Patrick Schuster Gets Burned
I'm just gonna knock the bad stuff out now and I'll get to Daniel Coulombe's fantastic 6th and 7th innings a little later. Skip to the bottom of this recap for the happy stuff.
Patrick Schuster took over for the electric Daniel Coulombe starting in the 8th and looked...less electric. After a 10-pitch battle with Marisnick, Schuster gave up a double, then alternating outs and walks to load the bases with 2 outs. Correa came to the plate and lobbed a hit perfectly down the right field line to plate two and put the Astros up 5-0. It was the coup de grace.
Not content to leave even the slightest whisper of hope, Schuster got two quick outs in the 9th before getting knocked around again. A single, a triple, and a double plated two more runs for the Astros to give us our final score of 7-0.
Offense - Oof
To make a long story short: The A's got very few baserunners, and even when they were in a position to make waves, they couldn't capitalize. The A's had runners in scoring position in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th but couldn't score.
Reddick was the only Athletic with more than 1 hit today, to make the dagger of his non-extension that much more painful.
Alcantara looked absolutely lost at the plate once again, striking out twice on 6 total pitches and hitting into a double play to put a bow on a terrible day at the plate. I absolutely want to get a longer look at him this time around, but as of now, he really has not looked comfortable in his at-bats.
Yonder Alonso has an OBP of over .500 versus the Astros this year, counting one walk today.
Healy had his first major league walk in the 7th.
The only time the A's showed much life was in the bottom of the 6th. Reddick hit a bloop that landed perfectly between 2nd base and right field for a hit, then Khris Davis hit a towering flyball that unfortunately just had a little too much vertical and not enough horizontal distance to get out. Vogt came through with his own bloop single to left field, but again the A's could not quite make anything happen, as Alonso hit a ball sharply but directly at the center fielder for the final out of the inning.
Give Semien a Break
Semien committed his 3rd error in recent days and 13th of the season. The error came in the 7th, when he threw high to Alcantara at 2nd base. He honestly is probably pretty gassed at this point and could really use a day or three off. There's no point in wearing down one of our best players at this point in the season, and with his unbelievable work ethic he has really earned some relaxation time. It is the A's' 7th consecutive game with an error, including the 4-error game immediately before the all-star break.
Daniel Coulombe was once again excellent! With Mengden's stratospheric pitch count, the A's turned to Daniel Coulombe from the bullpen for the second consecutive day. He pitched a clean 6th but things got messy again in the 7th. He gave up a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve, then Semien committed his error to put runners on the corners with 0 outs. But Coulombe soldiered on to shut the Astros down in incredible fashion: he struck out Valbuena and the free-swinging Colby Rasmus, then induced a groundball to short for the final out (featuring another questionable throw by Semien which Alonso was fortunately able to dig out).
So yeah, at least there's one thing to be happy about from today. Coulombe can be really, really good when his control is on.
The A's start a 4-game set against the Rays tomorrow, who of course are finally starting to get hot right as they come in to town. The game will be at 7:05.