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Game #25: Keuchel Dominant as A's Lose 7-2

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A's listless as Keuchel spins a gem.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The A's were stifled on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Houston by Dallas Keuchel. Changing speeds and working both sides of the plate, Keuchel sinker/slidered the A's into complete frustration. Jesse Hahn wasn't at all bad, but wasn't as sharp as he has been, and certainly wasn't as good as Keuchel, who went 7 and 2/3rds strong, striking out nine.

The A's had an opportunity to grab an early lead in the first inning after Trevor Plouffe legged out a hustle double to reach second with only one out, but were unable to capitalize. Plouffe moved over to third on a Ryon Healy flyout, and Khris Davis struck out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the frame, George Springer led off with an infield single and came around to score on a two-out double from Carlos Correa. Even in the first inning, you wondered if this would be all Keuchel would need.

Hahn settled in after the first and had his good curveball working for most of the day. He did give up some hard contact, including a wind aided Correa flyout to end the third. Off the bat, and from every indication from the crowd, that ball was destined for the train tracks the run above left field.

The Astros added their second run in the fourth. Hahn got a quick opening flyout, but hit Yulieski Gurriel with a curveball. In spite of making a really good pitch to the next hitter, Evan Gattis, Hahn had to watch as Gattis, practically down on his right knee, hit a double that missed being a homerun by only a few inches. The Astros may have removed Tal's Hill in center field, but the Crawford boxes in left are still among the most gimmicky fixtures in all of baseball. I generally like unique ballpark traits, and love Minute Maid Park in general, but it's hard not to be frustrated when you watch Hahn make a great pitch that would be a routine flyout anywhere else instead turn into an RBI double.

Hahn managed to work his way out of the fourth inning without suffering any further damage, but the game broke open for the Astros in the fifth. Springer singled again to lead off the inning, and Reddick reached base on his third (yes, his third!) catcher's interference of the series. Altuve singled next, and the Astros had the bases loaded with nobody out. Hahn came back with a big strikeout of Correa, but was victimized by some tough luck after Brian McCann hit a ball that took a wicked hop over Ryon Healy at first and scored two. McCann hit it hard enough, but it looked like a pretty sure double play that would have gotten the A's out of the inning unscathed if the much maligned Minute Maid infield didn't have other ideas.

Still, Hahn got himself out of the fifth without suffering any more damage after Adam Rosales and Chad Pinder turned a spectacular double play. Rosales ranged to his left, quickly flipped to Pinder at second, who caught it with his bare hand and fired a bullet to first to double up the faster-than-he looks Gurriel. Hahn would go on to pitch a clean sixth and finish having allowed eight hits and four runs (only two earned). His final line included six strikeouts and no walks.

Liam Hendriks came in for the seventh and looked very sharp, striking out one and allowing no Astros to reach base. The A's scored their first run in the top of the eighth and it looked like there was some life for the Green and Gold. Keuchel got the first two outs, and then gave up a single to Rosales, and exited having thrown 99 pitches. Luke Gregerson came in and Trevor Plouffe was pinch hit for by Yonder Alonso. Rosales then stole second, and moved up to third on a wild pitch. Alonso walked, and Healy drove in Rosales on a single to center. Khris Davis, representing the tying run, then hit a bullet, but it was right at Altuve, and the inning was over.

Frankie Montas pitched the eighth for Oakland. and gave up two quick baserunners on a walk and a base hit. It looked like he was going to recover and get out of the inning with the A's still having a chance to rally in the ninth, but with two outs, Marwin Gonzalez hit a towering homerun off the foul pole in right and suddenly the Astros led by six.

The A's tried to get something going in the ninth but the deficit was just too large. After Jed Lowrie struck out to open the frame, Josh Phegley doubled and came around to score on a Pinder single. Jaff Decker pinch hit for Ryan LaMarre and walked, and Rosales walked too to load the bases with two outs. With the tying run now in the on-deck circle, the Astros turned to their closer, Ken Giles, to get the final out. And get the final out he did - Alonso lined out hard on the first pitch to Reddick in right.

The A's finish April 11-14, two games worse than their April record last season. Keuchel, for his part, picked up his fifth win of the month and seems to already be building a strong case at winning another Cy Young award. It's worth mentioning that Phegley really struggled behind the plate today. It's more forgivable when catching Montas - he's wild and throws very hard, but he seemed uncomfortable when Hahn and Hendriks were pitching too. It's possible he wasn't seeing the ball well with the roof open, but he didn't do his pitchers any favors blocking or framing, to say nothing of the catcher's interference. The A's defense has been miserable so far this season, and it's getting harder to see why Bruce Maxwell shouldn't be given an extended look.

It's the end of April, and the season is still very young, but the A's bats have to get going soon. Oakland is off again tomorrow and finishes up this road trip with a series in Minneapolis that begins Tuesday night. Time to get back on track. Have a great rest of the weekend everyone.