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Game #60: Four Homers Fail to Foil Astros

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MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s lost a third straight hard-fought home game against the Astros as Houston prevailed 6-4 in 12 innings, sweeping the series and strengthening their commanding lead in the AL West. The A’s fifth straight loss left them below the .500 mark once again; they will hit the road tomorrow with a 29-30 record. Chris Bassitt provided another quality start and Oakland’s lineup went long four times against the Astros’ excellent pitching, but frustratingly, all four dingers were solo shots and the A’s struck out 15 times as the Astros bested them with aggressive baserunning and lockdown performances from their late relievers.

Today’s game thread

Overflow? Here you go!

Left fielder Derek Fisher started things off by living up to the Astros’ aggressive reputation at the plate. Bassitt served up a center cut fastball for his first pitch of the game and Fisher sent it deep to center field, eluding Ramon Laureano’s reach and bouncing over the wall for a ground rule double. Two quick outs followed, and it appeared the A’s might elude damage until Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel shot a line drive to the gap in right center for an RBI double. The A’s would take their first at bats already trailing 1-0. Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole wasn’t stellar in the first, issuing walks to Marcus Semien and Khris Davis. It took 26 pitches to work through the inning, but he kept the A’s hitless—and scoreless—in his opening frame.

Bassitt kept his composure and pitched a 1-2-3 second inning. Robbie Grossman led off the bottom of the second with a game-tying home run just beyond the right-center scoreboard. Two batters later, Jurickson Profar launched one to the same vicinity as Grossman’s shot. The A’s led 2-1 after two, the Astros looking Cole-nerable.

Bassitt and Cole went on cruise control for two scoreless innings, but the A’s faltered in the top of the fifth, the Astros exploiting every mistake as they are known to do. Bassitt walked Houston second baseman Tony Kemp to open the frame, and the Astros’ recently-called-up center fielder Myles Straw singled for a second time to put two on with no outs. Third baseman Alex Bregman later singled to score Kemp, and Straw also scored on the play due to a rare throwing error by Semien that Matt Olson couldn’t quite dig on a hop. The Astros retook the advantage, 3-2, and Cole, appearing to settle in, put up a 1-2-3 bottom frame to preserve the Astros’ lead heading into the sixth.

Both teams’ starters finished the sixth before exiting the game. Bassitt completed a quality start with a perfect inning and a final line of 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, and 1 SO, throwing exactly 100 pitches, 65 of which were strikes. Matt Chapman led off the bottom of the sixth with a double, but his teammates stranded him as Cole finished with a chance for the win, allowing 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, and 4 SO; 67 of 104 total pitches thrown by Cole were strikes.

Speedy Myles Straw continued to pester the A’s in the top of the seventh. Ryan Buchter, in relief for Bassitt, issued the A’s pitchers’ second walk of the day, and like the first it would cost the A’s a run as Fisher plated Straw with an RBI single, his second hit of the day. Houston led 4-2 at the seventh inning stretch. Liam Hendriks took over for Buchter to cleanly close out the frame.

The A’s evened the score late in regulation. Ramon “Laser” Laureano, facing Astros reliever Will Harris halved the A’s deficit with a shot over the left field wall.

Hendriks completed a 1-2-3 top of the eighth, capping off a very strong, much needed shutdown appearance across 1.2 innings. That enabled Chapman, leading off in the bottom frame to even things up with the the A’s fourth homer of the day. The A’s threatened further damage with singles from Khris Davis and Grossman, but both runners were stranded.

Blake Treinen, our of-late somewhat beleaguered bullpen ace, kept the game tied in the top of the ninth. He walked Tony Kemp with two outs but managed to leave him stranded at first as Straw was finally retired in his fourth plate appearance, lining out hard to Profar. Unfortunately, the A’s could not walk it off in the ninth, as the Astros’ Hector Rondon summarily retired Profar, Josh Phegley, and Semien in order, forcing extra innings.

Treinen’s control struggles reappeared in the top of the tenth, as he opened the inning with a four pitch walk to Fisher. Bregman followed with a single, but designated hitter Michael Brantley grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to ease the pressure, though Fisher advanced to third on the play. All told, Treinen was fairly shaky again, walking three batters in two innings and throwing only half of his 36 pitches for strikes. But he and the A’s narrowly escaped their peril as right fielder Josh Reddick popped up to Chapman at third to end the frame.

The Astros sent their own ace closer, Roberto Osuna, to face the heart of the A’s order in the bottom of the 10th. Things began promisingly, as Chapman opened with a single, but Osuna subsequently struck out Olson, Davis, and Stephen Piscotty in order, the latter apparently offering some choice words to home plate umpire Alan Porter and quickly getting ejected from the game. Bob Melvin rushed out in protest and subsequently exited behind Piscotty.

Unfortunately, the Astros once again gained the edge in the 12th. Lou Trivino, our of-late somewhat beleaguered setup man, looked good as he kept Houston batters off the bases and the game tied in the top of the 11th. Josh James, replacing Osuna on the mound for the Astros, answered with a 1-2-3 of his own. Then came the unraveling. Pesky Myles Straw singled to get on base for a fourth time and quickly stole second base for a third time with Fisher at the plate. Fisher struck out, but Alex Bregman walked to join Straw on the pond, and Brantley and Gurriel followed with singles to score Straw and Bregman. The Astros sent James back out to finish the game for Houston. He did not fall short, retiring Josh Phegley, Semien, and Chapman, as the game ended in the glove of former Athletic Josh Reddick, who took in a long fly from Chapman as the Astros edged the A’s for a third straight time, dealing Oakland their fifth consecutive loss to end what ultimately became a disappointing 4-5 homestand.

Kibbles & Bits

  • Profar does Profar: Jurickson pretty well covered the gamut of things he’s known for today: he homered in the second, airmailed two throws to first (thankfully the first proved inconsequential and the second was reeled in by our gold glover), and thrilled us with another flying tag:
  • Bullpen in Relief: Per Fangraphs, the A’s bullpen went 45-17 with a 3.91 FIP in 2018. So far this season, their FIP has only slightly declined to 3.94, but they’re 7-13. What gives?! Really—I’m asking you.
  • Welcome back Khrush: Davis got his first hit (albeit a mere single) since returning from the IL yesterday. May many dingers follow! Do you think he’ll get another 40+ this season despite the lost playing time?

The A’s are heading to Anaheim in hopes of avenging last week’s series loss to the Angels and returning to the sunny side of .500. Here’s to getting back on track in Disneytown!