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Game #85: A’s drop series opener to Astros

Good vibes early did not last

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland dropped their fourth straight to the Houston Astros, falling by a final of 8-3 on a cool Friday night at the Coliseum.

Both the pitching and the bats looked good early but fell off hard in the middle innings against an elite opponent. The Astros have the second-best record in the American League this year and they showed why tonight.

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

Good signs early

Both sides of the ball got off to a hot start in this game. Starting pitcher Paul Blackburn was excellent his first time through the order, retiring the side in order in each of the first three innings while racking up five swinging strikeouts along the way, including K’ing the side in the first. He looked like a man on a mission to secure his spot in the All-Star Game.

On the other side of the ball, a one-out single in the second from Christian Bethancourt brought up Elvis Andrus, who put the A’s on the board with a high drive that just snuck over the fence in left field.

That bomb was Andrus’ sixth of the year, double what he hit all of last year. 2-0 A’s, with Blackburn dealing early.

Things fall apart

The fourth is where the wheels came off for Blackburn.

After getting his 10th straight out to lead off the inning, three straight Astros hitters hit Blackburn hard. Back-to-back doubles from Aledmys Diaz and Yordan Alvarez put Houston on the board, and an Alex Bregman 2-run home-run gave them the lead.

Houston came right back the next inning and doubled their lead. Back-to-back singles opened the fifth and brought Houston catcher Martin Maldonado up to the plate. After missing a sac bunt attempt, he instead yanked a ball over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run. A walk and another single ended Blackburn’s day without getting an out in the fourth as Mark Kotsay brought in Sam Moll to finish the inning.

  • Paul Blackburn: 4 IP: 7 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 6 K, 86 pitches

What had begun as such a promising start for Blackburn instead ends up as his second worst performance of the season as far as runs allowed are concerned. What looked like a possible surprise All-Star season has fizzled right as voting has seriously begun, and it looks unlikely at this point that Blackburn will beat out fellow starting pitcher Frankie Montas to be Oakland’s representative. His ERA alone has risen by over one full run over his last four starts, going from 7th in the AL to 30th in that department.

The left-handed Moll pitched a pair of innings after coming in, another lefty in Sam Selman gave up a pair of runs on three hits and a walk in the seventh, and the third lefty out of the ‘pen in Kirby Snead pitched a pair of innings and escaped a bases-loaded jam unscored upon in the ninth.

As for the offense, they couldn’t get much of anything going after the Andrus home run, going down 11 in a row at one point. A Nick Allen leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth broke up that streak from Astros starter Jose Urquidy, but he then retired three in a row to strand Allen at first.

Catcher Sean Murphy led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, and Stephen Piscotty hit a sac fly to bring him in. And that was it from the lineup tonight as they went down 1-2-3 in the eighth and ninth innings to end this one. The A’s got just four hits tonight in eight innings against Urquidy and couldn’t keep up with the high-powered Astros’ offense.

Get ready to see a lot more of these guys, as Oakland and Houston face off eight more times over the next 16 games. Oakland is still looking for their first win against them this year.

The A’s will try to do just that tomorrow afternoon. It’ll be Zach Logue on the bump for the Green & Gold, freshly back from Triple-A to take the turn of the injured Frankie Montas. Logue hasn’t found much success in Vegas, posting a 5.03 ERA in six starts since his demotion in late May, but it’s a notoriously tough league to pitch in. He’ll be opposed by one of the top pitchers in the league in Framber Valdez. Definitively a tall task for the rookie!