The A's were fun last week. The A's are not fun this week.
Daniel Mengden dominant early
For the first three frames, Daniel Mengden was dominant. He sat down the first 10 he saw, striking out four. Yulieski Gurriel broke up the perfect game with a single past a diving Semien in the fourth, but after some more fine pitching, the A's made it out of that frame unscathed.
There have been times, especially later in Mengden's rookie campaign, where he's looked just utterly hittable. There have been times where a swing and miss seems like an impossibility and where you really have to wonder, does he have the stuff? Today, in the early going at least, he looked like a guy who clearly has the stuff to succeed in the majors.
A's jump out in front in fourth
In the fourth, the A's snagged the first run of the game. Danny Valencia walked, which is nice, cause walking (and not running) is Danny Valencia's favorite thing. A one out single by Marcus Semien would move him to second and with two outs, Valencia would score on a ground rule double by Brett Eibner.
Nice to see Eibner get a hit off a tough right handed pitcher, though he probably still profiles as a short side platoon outfielder.
Stros get it back in the fifth
Without any hits, the Stros tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth.
Marwin Gonzalez walked to lead off and moved to second with one out when Jason Castro walked. Those two would move up 90 feet each when Bruce Maxwell was unable to quell a Daniel Mengden slider, and Gonzalez would score on a routine groundball to Marcus Semien as the A's conceded a run for an out.
Ugly ugly sixth
The sixth marked Mengden's third go around through the order and true to form, Mengden's dominant nature disappeared and the Astros looked incredibly comfortable in the box. With one out, Jose Altuve singled. He'd score on a Carlos Corea double and Evan Gattis would follow with a dinger because of course Evan Gattis followed with a dinger. 4-1, Astros.
Maxwell plates run in bottom half
In their half of the sixth, the A's snagged a run back to bring the score to 4-2.
Danny Valencia led off with an infield hit in which he, the laziest ballplayer in the land, ran hard on an infield hit. I saw it with my own eyes and it was beautiful to see the man put effort into something other than Billy Butler's head.
He'd score from first when with two outs, Bruce Maxwell launched a double to the right-center field wall. It wasn't the best defensive day for Maxwell, but his bat is looking more and more for real.
Astros get another in seventh cause the A's defense does about a good a job preventing runs as Taco Bell
With Zach Neal on the mound, the Astros pushed the lead to three runs again.
George Springer hit a one out double to right. He'd move to third on another past ball/wild pitch, again mostly the fault of Bruce Maxwell. Springer would score on a groundball to Marcus Semien. Semien was playing in to prevent the run. He fielded the ball cleanly, gave a courtesy look to third and threw to first. On the throw, Springer darted towards home and being one of the best athletes in the game, was able to score in spite of the drawn in infield.
Credit goes first and foremost to George Springer. He's a truly elite athlete, explosive in every regard, and there's little chance the runner at third scores unless it's a Springer or a Dyson or maybe a Billy Burns with a brain. But still, not a good play by Semien whose look to third did nothing to send Springer back. 5-2, Astros.
A's score two more
In the bottom of the seventh, the A's snagged two back to make the score 5-4.
Jake Smolinski walked to lead off. Chad Pinder, pinch hitting for Joey Wendle, crushed a double to center in his first at bat in more than a week, moving Smolinski to third. He'd score on a Vogt groundout and Healy would bring in one more on a groundout of his own, and the A's were back within a run.
Even Gattis hit another g-d home run in the eighth to make the score 6-4 and I'm so tired of Evan Gattis it's ridiculous
Maybe it's cause he's just not that good, but I find losing to Evan Gattis just about as frustrating as any other player. You'd think the A's would stop putting the ball in the middle of the plate. Nope.
Teasing ninth produces run
With two outs in the ninth, Chad Pinder stepped to the plate. In an 0-2 count, Luke Gregerson, the Astros closer of the day, snapped a perfect slider on the outside corner freezing Pinder. Fortunately for the A's, it also froze the umpire and went for a ball. Just five short pitches later, including one that looked an awful lot like swinging strike, Pinder was standing on first base with a walk.
He'd move to second on a defensive indifference and score when Stephen Vogt's groundball slipped between the legs of MVP candidate Jose Altuve. The score stood 6-5, Astros.
Arismendy Alcantara would pinch run for Stephen Vogt, which turned out to be the death knell for the A's. He'd be caught stealing second to end the game on a very close play, one that held up to replay review and the A's would lose the game 6-5.
-Maxwell's blocking skills weren't on display today. Twice, baserunners were able to move up 90 feet thanks to his inability to block the ball and twice, it led directly to a run.
-Speaking of bad defense, Danny Valencia in rightfield is just, wow. Today's rendition of "Danny, why do you even own a glove" was a shallow flyball that landed thirty feet in front of where Valencia was initially standing on the play and fifteen feet in front of where he ended. He's so tentative on every flyball (which is fine, he's an infielder, kinda) and he's so slow even without that tentative nature that he's not going to get to many balls.
-The verdict is still out on Brett Eibner, but he's in the not-rare-enough club of A's who run like they crapped their pants, but don't want to tell you. Other members include Ryon Healy and Danny Valencia.
After a nice little week on the road, the A's have reverted to their old ways. On to the next!