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Game #161: A’s overpowered by Astros

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Houston wins 10-4

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s scored first on Saturday, but couldn’t keep up over the course of the evening.

The A’s lost 10-4 to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park, after winning their previous five meetings with Houston dating back to July.

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

Oakland put together an impressive rally in the 1st inning, with a single and a triple to lead off the game and then a double to drive in a second run. But the Astros answered back in the bottom of the frame with a three-run homer, then another homer in the 2nd, and another in the 3rd, and a two-run triple in the 6th, and a two-run homer in the 7th. The A’s scratched out a couple more runs along the way, but not nearly enough to keep pace with Houston’s onslaught — especially when the A’s were robbed of two potential dingers of their own, once by a catch and once by a roof.

With this victory, the Astros clinch the season series against Oakland, having won 10 times in 18 tries, with one more matchup coming tomorrow to conclude the 2021 regular season.

***

Four batters into the game, the A’s were looking good. Tony Kemp led off with a single, and Starling Marte followed with a triple into the gap to knock him all the way home.

Two batters later, Chad Pinder lined a double to the other gap, plating Marte.

Great start! Four batters, two runs.

But then the Astros got some turns at bat, and they did way more damage against Oakland starter Paul Blackburn. Within their first four batters of the 1st inning, they scored three runs, on a single, walk, and homer. In the 2nd they homered again, this time a solo shot just 326 feet into the first row of the Crawford Boxes, followed by a few more singles for another run. When Houston led off the 3rd with another homer, Blackburn was pulled.

  • Blackburn: 2+ ip, 6 runs, 2 Ks, 1 BB, 3 HR, 7 hits, 54 pitches, 92.6 mph EV

Out of the bullpen came James Kaprielian, who settled things down through the end of the 5th. But in the top of the 6th, the Astros rallied again, fueled by Kaprielian making a throwing error on a sac bunt, and capped by a two-run triple.

  • Kaprielian: 3⅓ ip, 2 runs (1 earned), 5 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits, 68 pitches, 87.6 mph EV

Houston added one more dinger in the 7th inning, off lefty reliever Sam Moll.

Meanwhile, the A’s lineup put a ton of runners on base but couldn’t convert as often as the Astros did. In the 3rd they got a leadoff single by Kemp but he was picked off, then another single by Marte but he was doubled off. In the 4th they were gifted a runner on third base with one out by a walk, passed ball, and throwing error, but they stranded him. In the 5th they did score a run, but also left the bases loaded.

The run in the 5th was driven in by Kemp, who led the way with four hits. With one out and a runner on second, he lined an RBI single to left, but he was then thrown out trying to hustle his way to second base on the play. The next three batters reached base, magnifying the cost of Kemp’s miscue.

He nearly erased that bad memory in the 6th. With two on and two out, and the score still within reach at 6-3, he blasted a ball deep to right toward the first row of seats. But outfielder Kyle Tucker reached up to make the catch, robbing a probable game-tying homer and stranding both runners.

It was the second time Oakland had been denied a potential dinger. Earlier, in the 4th inning with a runner on base, Khris Davis hit a towering drive to left field, but it went so high that it hit the ceiling of the stadium. The local ground rules state that if it hits above fair territory, you play it like a live ball, and it dropped straight down into an outfielder’s glove for the third out.

It’s difficult to say for certain whether the ball would have cleared the fence if not for hitting the ceiling, especially at a 49-degree launch angle. But considering how close it fell to the short porch of the Crawford Boxes, it sure seems likely.

While the umps made the correct call based on the written rule, manager Bob Melvin doesn’t like the rule, per NBCS:

“That ball is gonna be so far over the fence that you would think common sense would rule and MLB would have something like Tampa, where you have a line or some mark up there to show you what a home run would be. Because that ball is probably gonna hit the glass, hit a 107 miles an hour.”

The A’s did eventually score again, but it took until the 8th inning. Once again it was Kemp, this time with an RBI single.

What a day for Kemp! He went 4-for-5, and the only out was a robbed homer at the wall. He did get thrown out on the bases twice, but give him a break, Kempin ain’t easy.

Oakland put 18 runners on base, via a dozen hits, five walks, and an error. But they went only 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and they just missed two homers that would have been worth five runs combined. On the other side, they handed Houston an unearned run and the Crawford Boxes handed Houston a bogus solo homer.

The final 10-4 margin was lopsided, but there’s a reasonable version of the events where it’s a much closer game, and a not completely crazy version where the A’s win 9-8. But that’s not the kind of year this has been, and also Minute Maid Park continues to be the biggest joke in the majors.

One more game

The loss doesn’t matter anymore with the standings wrapped up, though watching a win would have been cooler. But the truly bad news is there’s only one more day of A’s baseball after this, before a long and possibly turbulent winter. Make sure to enjoy it!