Today is the day that all of baseball celebrates the life and career of Jackie Robinson, the most important person to ever play the game. When Robinson debuted for the Dodgers on this day in 1947 the game of baseball would be changed forever, opening its doors to a worldwide pool of talent that it had previously scorned. The new era of baseball that Robinson ushered in would not have the smoothest of transitions, as Robinson had to endure humiliating and debilitating racism, death threats, and more. The first step in making baseball a more wholesome, inclusive game had been taken, but beyond blatant segregation progress still needed to be made.
Progress is the theme for the A’s this season. Not expecting to compete this year, most sights are set on the continued development of the top prospects on the cusp on making the big league roster and the continued development of the young pitching at the big league level. Seeing the defense improve would be nice as well.
Sean Manaea made progress today. The imposing lefty is still slowly and surely figuring things out during his first full season in the majors, but today he flashed much of the potential that has made him long-heralded as a future ace or number-2 starter. He threw too many pitches per inning over the course of his start, but the high pitch count was worth it as it earned him six strikeouts versus two walks, no runs, and no hits through five innings.
Jaff Decker made progress today. After appropriately replacing Canha as the backup outfielder on the roster, Decker did what he did all spring and through his first few games in the minors in the MLB. He notched three hits, including a triple to left that handcuffed Nori Aoki, and also stole a base and played fine defense in center field (with one glaring moment as an exception). It seems clear that Decker intends to stay on the roster for a long time.
Khris Davis made progress today. The home-run-or-nothing left fielder of last year has all but disappeared, as Khris Davis smacked three more hits, one of them his sixth homer of the season, continuing his torrid start to the season in which he is hitting for average and walking at a much higher clip.
Trevor Plouffe made progress today. While only getting one hit, that one hit was a no-doubt home run. He also walked twice, half of the Athletics’ walks on the day, reaching base a total of three times.
The entire rest of the roster looked just as bad as the 2015 and 2016 rosters.
Manaea had a truly awful start to the sixth inning, walking three consecutive Astros to start the frame as he was clearly starting to tire. He induced a line drive to short from the next batter he faced, but Rosales clanked the liner and Decker, backing him up in center field, flubbed the ball as well. Two runners scored and Manaea was removed. Ryan Dull relieved Manaea and worked around the unenviable jam he inherited and a walk of his own and escaped the inning with only the two runs allowed and the no hitter intact. The A’s still led 5-2.
The no hitter ended on the first batter Liam Hendriks faced, Aoki, on a slap ground ball single the opposite way to left. Aoki stole second base off of Vogt and Hendriks. Two singles later and a force out at second base saw Aoki and George Springer score with Jose Altuve at first and Santiago Casilla on the mound. Altuve stole second, then third, off of Vogt and Casilla, but fortunately Carlos Correa would strike out swinging at ball four on a full count to end the inning with the A’s still leading 5-4.
Casilla began his seventh with two walks and a stolen base allowed to Josh Reddick. A sacrifice bunt placed runners on second and third and an emergency situation to inherit for Sean Doolittle in relief. The first pitch Doo threw squirted away from Vogt and allowed Reddick to score the tying run. A sacrifice fly broke the tie. Plouffe then failed to knock down a tough ground ball down the third base line, scored as a single, before Springer became the straw that broke Stomper’s back by homering on a high fly ball to left center field. Astros led 8-5.
The final three half-frames saw each team put a few more tallies in their run columns. However, the ninth inning primarily featured a scary moment in which Frankie Montas hit Carlos Correa on his hand while it was still gripping the handle of the bat, forcing Correa to leave the game and forcing the Astros to abandon their DH and play Josh Reddick at first base. Thankfully, it was reported that there were no broken bones in his hand and the young star is merely day-to-day.
The Astros scored ten runs in a game in which their first hit didn’t land until the seventh inning. This is the second game of the year for the Astros in which the team fell behind 5-0 only to rally back and score ten runs to win. The A’s pitching staff allowed eight total walks and hit two total batters, most coming in the sixth inning onward. Other than a run scored on a sacrifice fly after Jaff Decker’s triple, the A’s offense was completely stifled by the Astros’ bullpen. Ryon Healy looked worse than ever at the plate.
Jackie Robinson hated to lose "above anything else." Boy, oh boy, did the A's spend four hours losing spectacularly today by a final score of 10-6. Tomorrow the A’s will seek to salvage one game from their three game set against the Astros as Jharel Cotton takes on Charlie Morton at 1:05.