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Game #53: 9th inning collapse costs A’s, swept by Astros

At least they weren’t no-hit

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The outcome wasn’t great, but the A’s made it exciting, losing to the Houston Astros 5-4 in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon.

If you turned the game on late, then you turned it on at the right time because you didn’t miss a whole lot. Houston was no-hitting Oakland for the first six innings while the A’s held the Astros to just one run over the first eight. The A’s took a brief lead, but a rare collapse from the bullpen ended up being the difference, as Houston scored four in the ninth to win the game. Sigh.

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

Just a couple days removed from a season-low two hits, the A’s threatened to find new lows today, getting no-hit through six innings against Justin Verlander. He did plunk a batter and walked the next one to start the third and put an Athletic in scoring position, but a double play and groundout ended the small rally.

And that was all the offense the A’s could manage against the future Hall of Famer for the first six innings, striking out six times along the way and not getting another runner on in this stretch.

On the other side of things, lefty Cole Irvin did his best to match Verlander in the runs column but saw a bit more action on the base paths. Houston was able to get a baserunner on in every inning against Irvin except the fifth, and the only run off him came in the third thanks to three Astros’ singles, capped by a weak flare off the bat to drive in the first run of the game.

  • Cole Irvin: 5 23 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 89 pitches

With the way Verlander was dominating today, it looked like Irvin might be yet another tough-luck loser for the A’s on a day he probably deserved to get a win. His day was done after allowing an infield single to Kevin Smith at third on a play he wasn’t charged with an error on but probably should have made the play. Reliever Domingo Acevedo came on and ended the inning on a weak flyout.

The seventh inning is where things finally started going Oakland’s way. A 1-out Houston single prompted Mark Kotsay to bring in A.J. Puk to face the left-handed Kyle Tucker, who swung into a double play on the first pitch from Puk. Maybe a little momentum heading back to the dugout?

It sure seems that way. A walk from Chad Pinder was the first baserunner since the third against Verlander, but with two down the A’s needed a big hit. They got it from Elvis Andrus, and he pulled a ball down the left field line into the corner:

With 2 down and Pinder running at the crack of the bat, he was able to sprint all the way around to score, breaking up the no-hitter and shutout with one swing of the bat from Andrus. Oakland currently has the longest streak without getting no-hit at 30 years, 10 months, and 19 days. That was against the Baltimore Orioles here at the Coliseum. That streak will live at least one more day thanks to the A’s shortstop.

The next batter, Christian Bethancourt, saw that, yes, Justin Verlander is in fact human, swinging at the first pitch and sending it to straight-away center:

Suddenly, after just two batters, a no-hitter scare was suddenly a 2-run lead against one of the best in the business. That bomb from Bethancourt was his first with the A’s and his first MLB homer since 2016, so it’s been a while for him, One more flyout ended the inning and got Verlander out of the game as Houston went to the bullpen to start the eighth.

The Astros, suddenly behind, began a comeback attempt immediately, getting a HBP and double that almost went out to put the tying run in scoring position. In between those, Kotsay was ejected by the home plate umpire during a mound visit, his second ejection of his young managerial career. With two already out, bench coach Brad Ausmus, who took over managing this game, went to closer Dany Jimenez, hoping to get a four-out save from him to secure at least one win this series. Jimenez got the grounder to end the eighth inning threat.

He fell apart in the ninth, though, allowing a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases with no out. A huge strikeout of Kyle Tucker was the first out, but then Jimenez walked the next batter and forced in a run. Ausmus had seen enough, turning to the left-handed Sam Selman to face Yordan Alvarez for the left-on-left matchup. Selman got the first two strikes, but Alvarez took the third pitch and drove it into the right-center field gap, clearing the bases and giving Houston the lead again.

All four runs were charged to Jimenez, who has allowed eight runs in his last three appearances after only yielding a single run all year. His ERA has now risen from a miniscule 0.49 all the way to 3.92 ERA. Yikes.

The A’s made it interesting in the ninth, getting the leadoff man on thanks to a Ramon Laureano single, then another Andrus double brought him in and made it a one-run game again with Bethancourt back up to the plate. There would be no big hit here, however, as he grounded out to shortstop to end this one. Tough loss for the A’s.

Not the best start to June for the A’s, almost getting no-hit and then imploding in the ninth to finish off getting swept at home by a division rival. Irvin was solid against a tough lineup, and the defense played a clean game without any errors, but the bats being silent for too long and the rare bullpen collapse were the difference makers today.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to shrug this one off. The A’s have a day off tomorrow before welcoming the Boston Red Sox to town for a 3-game series this weekend. It’ll be James Kaprielian set for the start, who hasn’t been as sharp in his most recent couple of outings. It won’t get any easier, as Boston also has one of the best lineups in the A.L. too. See you all Friday night!