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Game #99: Houston bullpen beats Oakland bullpen - A's 2, Astros 3 (12)

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Jason O. Watson

Twelve innings played, but the Astros bullpen outlasted the Athletics bullpen as Houston defeats Oakland by the score of 3-2 after four hours and nine minutes.

Another night, another quality start for Scott Kazmir, who carried the A's past Houston even though his offense seemed to have violated a sacred BABIP burial ground, or done something else egregious to upset the baseball gods. Kazmir went seven innings deep, keeping his slate clean outside of a two-run 3rd inning, allowing seven hits and one walk while striking out six.

For much of the game, it seemed Brett Oberholtzer had found real success against the A's for just the second time in his career, the first being a six-inning, one-run performance at the Coliseum on September 7, 2013. Oberholtzer was very good in the end, allowing just two runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings pitched.

Kazmir's runs came in a brief spurt in the top of the 3rd, when Chris Carter hit following consecutive singles from Marwin Gonzalez and Jose Altuve, the latter of which struck Kazmir, creating a brief moment of panic for A's fans. But Kazmir was fine to pitch to Carter after retiring Kike Hernandez. Carter singled on a ground ball up the middle, scoring both runners, and that quickly, Houston led 2-0.

Oakland responded quickly in the bottom half, which Craig Gentry led off with a single. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a walk, bring up Josh Donaldson with two on and none out. His job was made easier when Gentry stole third base, allowing Donaldson to bring him home on a ground ball to Altuve that he legged out to avoid the double play. Derek Norris earned the fate that Donaldson barely avoided, though, grounding into an inning-ending double play to leave the score at 2-1.

Both pitchers continued to cruise until the bottom of the 6th inning, when Donaldson came a few feet away from tying the game singlehandedly on a booming shot to left field that almost left the field of play. Donaldson wound up at second base, and advanced to third on Norris' subsequent single. Jed Lowrie got the job done with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Donaldson. That was all the A's could muster.

The Astros threatened briefly in their half of the 8th, with Luke Gregerson pitching, when former Athletic Chris Carter predictably doubled off the left-center field wall, his third hit of the evening. But Gregerson got out of the inning with no further trouble, as did Doolittle in the 9th, and Otero in the 10th, while Josh Fields and Tony Sipp did the same for Houston, sending the game all the way to the 11th.

In the 11th, Dan Otero picked up the first two outs, but not without giving up a single to Matt Dominguez, prompting Bob Melvin to bring in Fernando Abad to face the left-handed hitting Jason Castro. Castro grounded out to Nate Freiman to end the threat, bringing up the A's in the bottom half with Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Derek Norris due up.

Cespedes and Donaldson both grounded out against Jose Veras and his 6.86 ERA. John Jaso pinch hit for Derek Norris and singled, and the crowd came to life as Jed Lowrie worked a walk to put Jaso into scoring position. Bo Porter turned to Darin Downs to face Brandon Moss, who could do no better than slap a first-pitch grounder to Jose Altuve to send the game to the 12th.

Fernando Abad continued with Ryan Cook warming. It appeared Abad would pitch until Jose Altuve, due up fourth, came to the plate. Abad got Robbie Grossman to ground out to Nick Punto at second base. Abad could not figure out L.J. Hoes who, sporting a .176/.237/.284 line, knocked a first-pitch home run just over the yellow line above the out of town scoreboard in left field to take a 3-2 lead. Marwin Gonzalez flew out to Josh Reddick, and Ryan Cook came in to get Jose Altuve to ground out.

In the bottom half, Chad Qualls entered the game to try to earn the save for the Astros. Stephen Vogt pinch-hit for Nate Freiman, but could do nothing but ground out to Qualls. Nick Punto grounded to Gonzalez at short. Coco Crisp, the final hope, found nothing he could work with, striking out swinging and ending the 12-inning affair. Darin Downs picks up the victory, Fernando Abad took the loss.

Tomorrow, the A's try to pick themselves up at 7:05 pm. It's Root Beer Float Day tomorrow at the Coliseum!