Lefty Ken Waldichuk took the mound for the A’s while Houston righty Brandon Bielak got the start for the Astros. Waldichuk (1-2, 7.02 ERA) is fresh off his no-decision last week against the Rangers while Bielak who has bounced back and forth between the big-league club and AAA affiliate Sugar Land Space Cowboys is 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA in his two major league starts.
The A’s got off to a terrific small-ball start, when Esteury Ruiz drove the first pitch of the game into centerfield for a base hit, and then Ryan Noda dropped down a bunt single on his first pitch. Two pitches, two baserunners. Shea Langeliers walked on four pitches to load the bases. Bielak regained his control and struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.
In the bottom of the first, Houston welcomed their All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve back from the Injured List (IL). Altuve saw one pitch and grounded out to third base for the “1” in Waldichuk’s 1-2-3 inning.
Jose Abreu led off the second inning with a base hit and Kyle Tucker followed him with a walk. Jeremy Pena grounded into a force play and when trying to turn a double play, the ball squirted away from Nona at first, allowing Abreu to score without a throw. At the end of two, the Astros had the lead 1-0.
Esteury Ruiz kept his hot hitting going with a base hit and then his league-leading 21st stolen base of the young season. A Shea Langeliers double, off the wall in the right-centerfield gap, scored Ruiz easily to tie the game at 1-1. Bielak’s fifth strike out of the game ended the A’s threat.
Jake Myers walked to lead off the third inning, and Martin Maldonado followed with a base hit. Jose Altuve grounded into a double play, but Myers moved to third on the play. Then Waldichuk and Alex Bregman went to battle and on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Bregman struck out swinging.
Yordan Alvarez doubled off the wall in straight-away center field to lead of the bottom of the fourth inning and Jose Abreu followed with a walk. Kyle Tucker doubled to score Alvarez and drive Abreu to third with no outs. After striking out Pena and Julks, Waldichuk walked Myers on four pitches to load the bases, bringing Martin Maldonado to the plate. Maldonado laced one into left field, but JJ Bleday went full extension on his dive to make the play and save the inning for Waldichuk.
In the bottom of the sixth, Waldichuk walked Jose Abreu on four pitches, and Kyle Tucker wasted no time planting a first pitch homer in the right field bleachers to make the score 4-1 Houston. After three pitches to Jeremy Pena, Waldichuk left with an apparent leg injury. He was replaced by righty Austin Pruitt. Corey Julks and Jake Meyers both singled to left field with one out. Maldonado followed with a walk to load the bases for Altuve. Pruitt induced an Altuve pop-out for the second out of the inning, bringing Bregman up again in a key spot. Pruitt got him to pop up also to end the inning.
Jordan Diaz led off the seventh with a single but was thrown out attempting to steal second. Ryan Noda walked with two outs, bringing up Brent Rooker. Rooker was 0-3 on the night with three strikeouts and then made it 0-4 with four K’s to end the inning.
Lucas Erceg made his major league debut in the bottom of the eighth inning after being acquired from the Brewers on Wednesday. After growing up an A’s fan, Erceg blew a 99-mph fastball past his first batter for his first major league strikeout against the WS champs! Erceg, from nearby Campbell, California gave up a double to Jake Meyers and then a base hit to Bregman to drive in Meyers. He induced a ground out from Alvarez to end the inning. Headed to the top of the ninth, the A’s trailed 5-1.
Houston’s closer Ryan Pressly shut the A’s down in the ninth to put the Astros in the win column for the fifth straight game. The Athletics fell to 10-36 on the year.