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Game #36: A’s Bats Stay Quiet, Astros Win 4-2

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MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

***Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread***

Well, the good news is the A’s held Houston to 12 fewer runs than last night. The not-so-good news is the A’s haven’t scored more than two runs since Friday. Despite chasing Astros’ starter Lance McCullers after five innings, the A’s never got the big hit they needed tonight.

It all started fine. The teams traded runs for the first three frames with the A’s scoring in the odd innings and the Astros scoring in the second. Marcus Semien led off the first with a walk and came around to score on a wild pitch. Semien had a nice day overall; the A’s shortstop collected two hits, walked, stole a base, and scored both A’s runs.

Tonight’s game had two palpable turning points. The first of these came in the bottom of the third when the A’s loaded the bases with nobody out and managed to only come away with a run. According to Fangraphs’ handy run expectancy matrix, a team can expert to score, on average, 2.28 runs in bases loaded, nobody out situations. But after Khris Davis hit a sacrifice fly that scored Semien, Matt Olson grounded into a double play, ending the threat.

The second turning point was in the fifth. Sean Manaea worked two quick ground outs to open the inning before plunking Brian McCann. McCann brings a lot to the Astros, but speed is not one of his finer qualities; even with two outs, he was unable to score on Jake Marisnick’s double.

And so the A’s still had a chance to exit the inning unscathed. But it was not to be, as George Springer doubled on the first pitch he saw, scoring both baserunners. It will be good to see George leave town tomorrow.

Sean Manaea didn’t have his best stuff and failed to complete six innings for just the second time this season. The Throwin’ Samoan was charged with all of Houston’s runs, marking Manaea’s second consecutive start in which he allowed four runs.

Manaea’s control seemed better than his command tonight; while he didn’t walk anyone, he pitched around the middle of the zone too much and gave up plenty of solid contact. This Alex Bregman homerun is a good example.

It’s difficult to be successful when you’re only throwing around 90 if you leave pitches that far up in the zone. The A’s bullpen kept it close, although was far from sharp. Lou Trivino and Ryan Dull combined to allow four hits over 2.1 innings, and Santiago Casilla nearly thwarted any hope of a comeback in the ninth.

Casilla might have been getting squeezed a bit, but walked two and allowed a single, which brought Carlos Correa to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out. Casilla buried a fastball in on Correa’s hands, inducing a weak pop out, and managed to weasel his way out of the jam a batter later.

The A’s made one more run at it in the ninth. Matt Chapman hit a bullet to left field, which brought Chad Pinder to the plate with only one out. But the Astros worked another double play, and the game was over. The A’s only recorded six hits, but the last four innings were a particular struggle as the Astros bullpen faced the minimum twelve batters.

The most heartwarming moment of the game was undoubtedly Stephen Piscotty’s first at-bat back since losing his Mother to ALS.

Prior to this season, Brian McCann would have surely walked out to the mound to allow Piscotty a full ovation. Fortunately, home plate umpire Doug Eddings was aware of the situation and filled the gap created by the new rules.

Last video of the night; you just don’t see this very often.

Day baseball tomorrow before the A’s hop a plane to New York. Daniel Mengden gets the start for Oakland, and he’ll face-off against Gerrit Cole. Let’s get some runs!