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Oakland A’s Game #40: A’s can’t quite sweep doubleheader, fall 5-4 to Astros in nightcap

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But a split works when the other team is chasing you in the standings

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics - Game Two Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s came close to completing a doubleheader sweep on Tuesday, but couldn’t come up with one final burst of magic to put them over the top in the nightcap. Still, a split isn’t so bad when you entered the day with a 4.5-game lead over your opponent in the division race.

The A’s fell to the Houston Astros 5-4 in the second game of the twin-bill, meaning the standings stayed the same when the dust settled on the day’s full action. The AL West rivals have two more games together this week to wrap up their season series, with just over two weeks left in the regular season after that.

*** Game Thread #1 | Game Thread #2 ***

The first act of this game was nearly identical to the preceding afternoon affair. The A’s got to work early and built a 4-0 lead, but then Houston came back to tie it. However, whereas this afternoon Oakland put together another rally later to retake the lead, this evening it was the Astros who found the plate again in the final frame.

All of the A’s scoring came in the 3rd inning. Tony Kemp drove in one with a sac fly, and then Matt Olson cleaned up the rest of the rally with a towering three-run homer. They threatened again in the 6th, with the score still tied, but left the bases loaded with nothing to show for it.

The 418-foot dinger by Olson was a monster blast, coming off the bat at a whopping 112.5 mph. That ranks it as the third-hardest batted ball by any A’s hitter this season.

Meanwhile, the Astros answered back in the top of the 4th against Mike Minor, making his first start in green and gold. The lefty kept them quiet for the first three frames, but the second time through the lineup they managed to load the bases. Minor hit a batter to force one home and then got an early hook, but the hottest bullpen in the majors finally cracked behind him.

With the bags still packed, Yusmeiro Petit walked two batters to force in more free runs, and then allowed a single to tie it up. All three runs were charged to Minor.

Minor: 3⅓ ip, 4 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 0 HR, 3 hits, 63 pitches (41 strikes)

Perhaps if this had been a normal full-length game, Minor may have gotten more of a chance to work through his own jam. As it is, it’s difficult to blame him entirely for his final line — calling on Petit to strand some inherited runners is one of the safer bets in the business, and the fact that his rare failure came on this day doesn’t make Minor a worse pitcher. The southpaw’s .346 xwOBA for the day is within spitting distance of league average.

The game stayed tied until the 7th, when some bad hops opened the door for a rally against J.B. Wendelken. The first batter hit a grounder toward shortstop, and usually Matt Chapman would have swooped in from third base to cut it off in front of SS Marcus Semien and converted an easy out. However, neither of them were playing due to minor injuries, so instead third baseman Chad Pinder charged and then backed off at the last moment, while shortstop Vimael Machin tried to field it but clanked it off his glove. An error was charged to Machin.

The next batter hit a grounder to the right side that was perfectly placed for an infield single, and then after that a walk loaded the bases. Yuli Gurriel lofted a sac fly plenty deep to center, and the go-ahead run came home — though it’s nearly impossible to blame Wendelken for coughing it up. Oakland’s lineup had no answer in the bottom of the inning, and the game was over.

The two teams are right back at it Wednesday, at 6:10 p.m., for the fourth game of this series.