Oakland got back in the win column on Saturday evening, defeating the Houston Astros 4-1 on a beautiful evening at the Coliseum.
This was a pitching duel for the first half of the game. Oakland starter Paul Blackburn fell into some trouble in the first with a second and third situation but escaped unscored upon. Last year’s Oakland All-Star allowed only one hit (and a pair of walks) for the next four innings, bouncing back after a rough previous start earlier in the week. With the trade deadline coming up there is a slight possibility tonight was his final one for the A’s and if it was then he’s ending his Oakland tenure on a high note.
His one and only real blemish from his start tonight came right at the very end when Astros star third baseman Alex Bregman connected on a hanging 2-2 curveball for a solo home run. Houston had taken the lead and it might not take much more than that to seal a win with the way the A’s bats were performing.
As good as Blackburn was tonight, Houston starter Cristian Javier was better. The Astros ace didn’t allow a hit through the first five innings, although he did issue five walks during those five frames. It felt like only a matter of time until the A’s either got a hit off him or his pitch count got too high.
It ended up being the former as rookie Zack Gelof connected for the first A’s hit of the game, a 1-out single in the bottom of the sixth. There would not be a no-hitter tonight.
A flyout and walk ended Javier’s day as Houston manager Dusty Baker pulled him at 97 pitches. Finally into the Astros’ bullpen, another walk loaded the bases for Oakland with Jace Peterson coming up to bat. He took the third pitch of the at-bat and drove a single to center field, bringing in two runs and giving Oakland the lead:
Suddenly Oakland had a late lead against the reigning World Series Champions and a current playoff-contender. Could the team add on an insurance run or two? Could the Athletics’ bullpen keep Houston from coming back?
Well the answer to question one was a resounding yes after Gelof hit his first career Major-League home run with two down in the bottom of the seventh:
A huge night for the rookie playing in just his ninth career game. Breaking up a no-hitter attempt from one of the best pitchers in the league, and your first career home run. Have a day.
Gelof got the silent treatment after his first career home run pic.twitter.com/x6FQPD6wVo— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 23, 2023
Another solo home run in the eighth gave Oakland another extra run, courtesy of outfielder Seth Brown’s 10th of the season:
As for the Oakland bullpen, they pulled their weight tonight. Righty Austin Pruitt relieved Blackburn in the sixth and had a clean outing, then Lucas Erceg had a dominant showing tonight as he tossed two scoreless innings, including four straight strikeouts.
Up 4-1 in the ninth, Mark Kotsay turned to Trevor May to finish off the Astros and secure the win. He gave them a big scare when he almost allowed a game-tying three-run home run…
…but he finished this game off with flare by striking out the final batter of the game. The A’s had secured the win, their first against Houston this year.
A very solid W for the Green & Gold tonight. Blackburn was just about at his best tonight against a potent offense and only gave up one run on one mistake pitch. It took a while for the bats to get going but once they did they got their pound of flesh. And the bullpen did its job, even with a scary ninth inning performance from their top-paid player.
After losing the first two games of the series, winning tonight was very much needed. They can still split the series with a win tomorrow afternoon in the final game of the home stand though. They’ll be hoping rookie Luis Medina can outduel fellow first-year Hunter Brown and lead the A’s to a split. Let’s go A’s!