Given the circumstances, knowing the A’s hung up four runs on Justin Verlander in under six innings pitched, one could be forgiven for being a touch overconfident. Unfortunately, Sean Manaea and Emilio Pagan gave up a combined nine runs and Martin Maldonado wound up a single short of the cycle, and the deficit wound up being too much for even these A’s to overcome.
It was clear from Martini’s first at bat that the A’s had an approach and plan for facing Verlander, as the team got deep into counts and made Verlander work hard, needing twenty or more pitches to get through his first three innings. The team did some real damage, too. More specifically, in the first, Verlander had to throw six pitches to Chapman before the star third baseman ripped his final offering 106 MPH to straight away center field, beyond the fence.
Not long after, on the first pitch he saw of the at bat, Khris Davis blasted a flat Verlander fastball over the left center field fence to push the A’s lead to 2-0.
The next time Khrush came up to the plate, the A’s were down two runs but Verlander’s pitch count was fast approaching sixty in just his third inning pitched. With a runner on third base and two outs, and the Astros having just turned a rally killing double play, Davis, once again on the first pitch he saw, blasted a flat fastball off the top of the right center field wall.
For his first two innings on the mound, Manaea looked as good as ever. His fastball was touching 92-93 on the radar gun, and he induced a lot of swings and misses and strikeouts. However, with two outs in the third inning, the wheels fell off, and fast.
Four straight two out hits begot four runs for the Astros, the backbreaker being a three run shot down the left field line from Yuli Gurriel. In the following inning, the Astros repeatedly got into hitters’ counts and punished Manaea’s offerings, and he was lucky enough to only surrender one solo home run in the frame. He failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in the fifth inning before being replaced by Lou Trivino, and two of his baserunners scored, making his final pitching line four innings pitched, nine hits, and six runs, with five strikeouts.
Melvin’s aggressive usage of Trivino was justified by the fact that the A’s were just down by two runs, and victory was still a very real possibility. And the A’s had real chances to retake command of the game in the game’s second half. In the sixth, the A’s loaded the bases against Brad Peacock, but Mark Canha struck out to end the inning after a good, long at bat. Jonathan Lucroy started the seventh with a single, but that wound up being the final hit the A’s had in the game.
Emilio Pagan was brought on in the seventh inning to try and save the rest of the bullpen’s bullets, and he performed admirably in that he pitched the final three innings of the game and struck out four batters, but he also gave up three solo home runs and by the final innings of the game, the end felt like a forgone conclusion.
Can’t win ‘em all. The A’s fall temporarily back into second place, and now have to shift their focus to the visiting Texas Rangers. In what was a week wherein the baseball world finally shifted its attention upon Oakland, the A’s took series from strong Mariners and Astros squads, and it continues to look as though the A’s “hot streak” is just the new norm.
This is a great team, the final stretch has begun, and the rest of it will assuredly be magical to watch.