A’s rally falls short to slip into second place

OAKLAND COLISEUM — The A’s failed to capitalize on a weaker team – and move into sole possession of first place in the West – as they fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 in the opener of a four-game weekend set.

Houston wasted no time jumping all over young Sonny Gray. With two outs in the top of the first, Trevor Crowe singled, and Brett Wallace walked before former-Athletic minor leaguer Chris Carter singled in the Astros’ first run.

They’d extend their lead in the second when L.J. Hoes, Matt Pagnozzi, and Jose Altuve all singled. Altuve’s single to left easily scored Hoes, but Yoenis Cespedes booted the ball, allowing Pagnozzi to also come around to score, giving Houston a 3-0 early lead – and they never looked back.

Oakland made some noise against Brad Peacock (W, 4-5, 5.62 ERA) in the eighth inning when Eric Sogard led off with a triple, and Stephen Vogt doubled him home to get the A’s on the board.

Jed Lowrie reached on an infield single, and Alberto Callaspo’s fielder’s choice brought in Vogt. The play at the plate was bang-bang, but it went Oakland’s way to make it 3-2.

Astros’ manager Bo Porter vehemently argued the call and was immediately tossed by home plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Vogt said he knows he was safe:

“Yeah, I beat it. It was weird. I’ve never had two plays back-to-back where you have to make a read from third base like that. I was fortunate enough to get a pretty decent jump … and my foot was definitely on the plate before he tagged me, and he made a really good cover.”

Despite giving up the early runs, Gray (L, 2-3, 2.51 ERA) settled in nicely on his way to a tough-luck loss.

He threw 95 pitches in his eight innings of work, giving up three runs – only two of which were earned. He also walked one and struck out seven. Gray was happy to go eight innings – tying a career-high – but was disappointed with how he started:

“It was nice to be able to go out there and throw some innings and keep you right there into it, with a chance to win. But I’ve gotta start better than that.”

Peacock’s line was eerily similar to Gray’s on his way to the win. He lasted seven-plus inning, and allowed five hits, two earned runs, one walk, and struck out nine on 97 pitches. He’s now 3-1 over his last seven starts.

With the Texas Rangers having the day off, Oakland had an opportunity to take sole ownership of first place in the division, especially against a 47-93 Houston team.

But the A’s have struggled lately against the Astros, having lost three of their last four against them. Josh Donaldson acknowledged that the team struggled tonight against a team they should’ve beat:

“I don’t think we came out blazing, it was just one of those days where I don’t know what happened. But we’ll come back tomorrow and try to get the win.”

Friday night the A’s send A.J. Griffin (12-9, 3.84 ERA) to the mound to face left-hander Dallas Keuchel (5-8, 4.77 ERA).

Notes

The A’s are now 5-2 in their last seven games. They’re 12-4 against Houston this season. … Gray suffered his first career home loss. He allowed seven of the first 11 batters to reach base but retired 19 of the last 20 he faced, including the last ten in a row. … Cespedes is 7-for-19 in September after hitting a career-worst .216 in August. … Vogt extended his career-high hitting streak to eight games and is hitting .360 during the streak.