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Game #8: A’s still can’t figure out Astros

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Now 0-5 against Houston

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros
Cole Irvin pitched alright but it wasn’t enough
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s aren’t winless anymore, but they still have a slump to bust out of at the plate.

The A’s found themselves back in the loss column Thursday with a 6-2 defeat, and in the process missed their first chance to exact revenge against a Houston Astros club who already swept Oakland once this year.

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

For eight innings the A’s couldn’t find the plate, and they collected only three hits in the process. In the 3rd and 5th they put together rallies, but both times Houston was able to retire Matt Olson to escape the jams, in Olson’s return to the lineup after missing a couple games to a banged knee.

Oakland finally pushed across a couple runs in the 9th, on an RBI double by Stephen Piscotty and then an RBI pinch-hit single by Jed Lowrie. Unfortunately it was only enough to avoid the shutout, not make a serious comeback.

On the bright side, the A’s had several loud outs that required especially nice defensive plays by the Astros, and also Olson nearly cashed in on one of his opportunities with a sharp grounder down the 3B line just barely foul — Houston later hit the same ball and it stayed fair for a run. In other words, this was one of those games where Oakland got out-played but also had all the worst luck, and it could reasonably have been closer than it turned out.

Pitching

In their first series against the Astros last week, the A’s allowed eight, nine, nine, and nine runs. This time it went down to six. Progress!

Starter Cole Irvin fared slightly better in his second attempt against Houston. The lefty still gave up a run here and there, but he was able to work into the 6th inning after being pulled in the 5th last time.

In particular, Irvin once again avoided any extended rallies or terribly crooked numbers. There was a solo homer, then a couple innings later back-to-back doubles but nothing more, and then a couple innings later another solo homer. He bequeathed a runner to the bullpen before exiting, which later came across too.

Irvin: 5⅓ ip, 4 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 2 HR, 5 hits, 79 pitches

Still lots of hard contact, but it will be interesting to see what he can do next time against a lineup that isn’t Houston’s juggernaut.

The final run on Irvin’s record came when reliever J.B. Wendelken couldn’t strand the inherited runner in the 6th. Deolis Guerra worked the final two innings in his A’s debut, beginning by serving up a dinger to Jose Altuve but then retiring six straight.

On defense, Ramon Laureano had a run-saving highlight.

The biggest problem at this point is the lineup, which is going to need to get going sooner than later — more a matter of when than if, but when is also important. For the pitching, I’ll withhold judgment until we’ve seen them play a couple series against lineups that aren’t the Astros or Dodgers.

Try again tomorrow!