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Game #52: A’s waste Montas’ performance, fall 3-1 to Houston

#FilthyFrankie held down a potent lineup

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

The A’s wasted another beautiful pitching performance tonight, falling to the Houston Astros 3-1 in the second game of the series.

There were a ton of wasted chances by the Oakland lineup, as they went 1-for-12 with RISP. They were at least consistent in this game, getting a baserunner on in the first seven innings and the ninth.

On the bittersweet side of things, the starting pitcher was fantastic tonight, only making himself more attractive to other teams. With trade season fast approaching, we’re probably witnessing his final few starts for Oakland, so enjoy these performances while they last.

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

Early pitching bends but doesn’t break

Starting pitcher and trade candidate Frankie Montas cruised early, retiring the first six batters and striking out three of them, two looking.

Houston’s starter had a bit of a harder time today, allowing a leadoff Tony Kemp double and a walk for an early threat. The A’s couldn’t cash in there, but they did make Cristian Javier throw 23 pitches in the inning, so at least a small victory there.

Oakland got a couple 1-out runners in the next couple innings, but wasted a double in the second and a walk in the third. Houston wasn’t doing much better, as their first hit of the game in the third was immediately wiped out on a double play. They went down in order in the fourth, too.

Both teams breakthrough

The A’s were the first to strike tonight, putting together a two-out rally in the fourth with an Elvis Andrus double, his second of the game, and a Sheldon Neuse walk. That brought up Cristian Pache. There’s been a lot said about his lack of luck with the bat this year, but he came through with a nice swing here, swatting a hanging pitch into center field to bring in Andrus:

Kemp walked to load the bases and keep the rally going, but a pop out ended it. Since the A’s were 16-3 when scoring first this year, and Montas looked ready to go on cruise control, things were looking up for Oakland right around here. That rally also ended the Houston starter’s day, as the Astros turned to the bullpen to start the fifth.

There was no shutdown inning for Montas, though. Two singles put him in his first jam of the game. It looked like he might escape unscathed after getting a strikeout for out number 2, but an RBI single to left off the bat of #8 hitter Chas McCormick tied this game.

It could have been worse. The RBI single saw the second Astro runner get caught too far off of third base, getting into a rundown and ending the inning. Huge break for Montas and the A’s, right there.

Wasted chances

On a night Oakland couldn’t get the big hit, the bottom of the fifth was the most frustrating inning to watch.

With a new pitcher in the game, a Ramon Laureano single and Seth Brown double to start the inning gave the A’s a golden opportunity to retake the lead with runners at second and third and no out. Alas, a groundball of the bat of Sean Murphy went right to Houston third baseman Alex Bregman and the throw home nailed Laureano trying to score.

It’s inexcusable to make the first out of the inning at home and it cost the A’s today. There was at least still a runner in scoring position at second base, but a pair of flyouts ended the inning and cemented yet another wasted chance to score runs.

The A’s got both leadoff men on in the sixth and seventh innings, then promptly went down in order after.

Houston had their own tough moments on offense tonight, though. Back-to-back 1-out singles and a botched double play ball by Neuse at third loaded the bases against Montas in the seventh. A mound visit looked like his day might be done, but he stayed in. Montas didn’t let the error get to him, getting another groundball, and this time the A’s defense executed it to end the inning:

Montas was pumped coming off the mound and it felt like Oakland had some momentum in this game. It did not.

Houston takes the lead

Manager Mark Kotsay sent Montas out for the top of the eighth. And with the righty only at 91 pitches and having pitched into the eighth last time out, it seemed like Kotsay hoped to squeeze one more inning out of him to possibly get him the win if Oakland could score in the bottom half of the inning. The decision to leave Montas in backfired immediately, as McCormick again hurt the A’s, this time in a bigger way with a home run. Montas wouldn’t throw another pitch, as Zach Jackson came on to relieve.

  • Frankie Montas: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 98 pitches

Kotsay didn’t sugar coat it after the game. Montas threw the ball great and the offense was the reason for the loss tonight. That’s now eight straight starts from him without a win, and the A’s have scored one run or less in six of those eight starts. He should have at least a couple more wins right now.

The reliever choice also turned out to be the wrong one from Kotsay. Entering the game in a clean situation, Jackson walked the four batters he faced and walked in a run, not getting a single out before Sam Moll relieved him. Entering a bases-loaded no-out jam, Moll mitigated the damage and didn’t allow another run to score, keeping the deficit to two. Lou Trivino pitched to a pair of hitters in the ninth, striking out both of them for a clean outing.

It was a bad time for Oakland’s offense to have their first 1-2-3 inning today, going down in order in the eighth before facing off against Houston closer Ryan Pressley in the ninth. A Kemp single to lead off the inning gave some hope to fans of the Green & Gold, but a flyout and double play ended this one in anti-dramatic fashion.

This May was not kind for the A’s, as Oakland went 9-21 this month. The defense didn’t cost them today, but it’s now second in the league in errors. And the big hit is still far too often eluding the A’s.

On the plus side, Kemp, Laureano, and Andrus all had a pair of hits tonight, while a slumping Neuse got a pair of walks (and a pair of K’s). Pache made a couple nice running catches in the outfield today, and Montas did was he’s done for most of the year, which is dominate and give the A’s a chance to win.

Oakland will try to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon at the Coliseum, where they’ll send out lefty Cole Irvin in the series finale before an off-day on Thursday. He’ll be opposed by A’s nemesis Justin Verlander, so a win tomorrow against the future Hall-of-Famer would be extra sweet. See you all then!