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Game #160: A’s hang on to beat Astros 8-6

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Almost blew another one! But not quite.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros
High-scoring affair in Houston
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s can still do some damage, when they’re not playing the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s took a big lead and then withstood a late comeback attempt in an 8-6 win over the Houston Astros on Friday, opening the final series of the 2021 season on the road at Minute Maid Park.

*** Click here to revisit tonight’s Game Thread! ***

Oakland has now won their last nine non-Mariners games, with the last four of those coming against Houston. Unfortunately their seven losses to Seattle during that time helped eliminate the A’s from postseason contention already, so this latest victory doesn’t mean anything in the standings, but beating the Astros is always worth the time.

Through six innings tonight, Oakland led 4-2, and then they tacked on four more runs in the top of the 8th to seemingly blow the game open. But Houston answered back with four of their own in the bottom half of the inning, then brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the 9th before the A’s bullpen finally escaped.

***

Houston scored the first run of the evening, but Oakland used some hustle and power to build an early lead.

In the 3rd inning, Tony Kemp drew a leadoff walk, then attempted to steal second base. He jumped too early and the pitcher threw (wildly) over to first to pick him off, but Kemp made it to second safely anyway. Josh Harrison followed with a single to drive him home.

In the 4th, the A’s pulled their signature move, the solo homer. Chad Pinder is batting .328 in September, with three homers and 13 RBI in 19 games.

In the 6th inning, Matt Olson joined the party with a two-run blast. That’s his 39th of the season.

Of those 39 dingers, 22 of them have come against lefty pitchers, which is the most in MLB history by any lefty hitter. Only two righties ever had more, with Dick Allen (1966) and Cecil Fielder (1990) each putting up 25.

He’s got two more games left to reach 40!

On the other side of the ball, Sean Manaea pitched into the 6th inning. His first two batters of the game blasted a triple and a single to score a run, but after that he kept the Astros off the board through the end of the 5th, stranding six runners along the way. In the 6th he retired the first two batters, but a walk and a double plated another run and chased the lefty.

  • Manaea: 5⅔ ip, 2 runs, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 7 hits, 103 pitches, 86.9 mph EV

He finishes the season with a 3.91 ERA and 194 strikeouts.

After seven innings, Oakland carried a slim 4-2 lead, and then the scoreboard burped and each club had a four-run outburst in the 8th. The A’s rally came with a lot of help from Houston second baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who made two errors in the frame.

The inning began with Starling Marte getting hit by a pitch and then stealing second, his MLB-leading 47th swipe of the year and his second of the night. He moved to third on a groundout by Olson, then scored on a grounder by Pinder. Gonzalez tried to nab Marte at the plate, but his throw went wide.

Oakland added another run on an RBI single by Seth Brown, and another on an RBI double by Tony Kemp, and then one more on another throwing error by Gonzalez. Pete Kozma, making his A’s debut, hit a grounder up the middle and Gonzalez fielded it but threw it away, allowing Kozma to reach safely and a runner to score from third.

That crooked number put Oakland up 8-2, but the Astros matched it in the bottom of the inning against the A’s bullpen to make it close again. Three singles off Yusmeiro Petit produced a run, and then a homer of Deolis Guerra drove in three more, with the dinger hit by catcher Jason Castro of Castro Valley. All told, the 8th inning took 57 minutes, with the two clubs combining for eight runs.

In the 9th, Lou Trivino allowed a double and a walk to his first two batters, but then set down the next three in order.

Finish strong

In the grand scheme this game doesn’t mean anything, and Houston didn’t put out their full starting lineup. But a day with an A’s win is still better than a day with an A’s loss.