O.CO COLISEUM — When reliever Jim Johnson comes in to pitch, it’s clear the A’s have a solid lead. Wednesday night, Johnson allowed four runs —three earned — without ever recording an out.
Fortunately, Oakland had a six-run lead when the defense collapsed, and Oakland held on to a 9-7 win over the Houston Astros. Jesse Chavez (W, 5-2/3 IP, 2 ER, 7 K, 3.14 ERA) threw four hitless innings before allowing four hits and two earned runs.
The Oakland offense backed him with nine runs and two home runs from Yoenis Cespedes.
Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay
Cespedes hit his first home run to straightaway center in the second. His second soared into deep left field in the fourth. The first blast scored second baseman Eric Sogard and outfielder Coco Crisp.
The A’s had lots of fun with Houston starter Brad Peacock (L, 3.2 IP, 7 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 4.93 ERA), nailing him for seven runs. Chavez didn’t need much for run support, the four hitless innings being the longest stretch since arriving in Oakland.
Not to mention his eighth win, after having only nine in 191 career appearances entering this season. Chavez said:
“(My pitches) were a little bit crisper. I think it was just me harnessing it a bit more towards the end of the game.”
Oakland got reliever Jake Buchanan for two more, one coming from catcher John Jaso on a single in the fifth, another from a fielder’s choice off the bat of Craig Gentry in the seventh.
Gentry replaced Cespedes after he hurt himself taking a wild swing. Cespedes is day-to-day. The tune changed in the seventh inning, after rapper Biz Markie butchered “take me out to the ballgame.”
Hopefully he was just feeling ill, since it may have been the worst rendition ever.
In came Johnson for the eighth inning, who also may have given his worst performance in his career. Signed by the team for his superb ground-ball-inducing ability, Johnson was smoked like pork shoulder.
The first run came on a Chris Carter double, scoring second baseman Jose Altuve an sending catcher Jason Castro to third. Outfielder Marc Krauss drove in Castro on a single, prompting manager Bob Melvin to replace Johnson with Dan Otero.
But the beating continued. Another came in when Josh Donaldson made an errant throw to first base, though the play would have been tough to make.
It was Donaldson’s 18th error of the season; he leads the league in the category. First baseman Jon Singleton missed out on the RBI, reaching safely while sending Carter home.
Rightfielder Robbie Grossman singled next, sending Krauss across the plate. Houston’s final run of the inning came on a single from outfielder Enrique Hernandez, scoring Singleton.
When asked about Johnson, Melvin had to pause. He refused to throw Johnson under the bus.
Melvin hoped Johnson could last two innings, and after being pulled, Johnson didn’t want to be consoled. A few teammates came up and tried, but Johnson shrugged them off.
He’s allowed 12 runs over his past five outings and those outings have only totaled 4-1/3 innings. That’s an ERA of 24.92 during that time. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who went 1-4 with a home run Wednesday, said of Johnson:
“It seems like every ball right now is finding a hole. It’s tough, you know, because you root for a guy like that. He’s working really hard, and sometimes this game isn’t fair.”
Catcher John Jaso agreed:
“He’s a competitor that’s for sure. A guy that gets that many saves last year. That definitely has a competitive nature. I’ve never seen rut like that during a season. He’s putting effort in. Before BP, during BP. He’s definitely not taking it likely. You don’t want to see someone whose struggling take it like “eh, whatever.'”
Though the beating was hard to watch, closer Sean Doolittle came in to retire the side in order, picking up his 15th save of the season.
After the game, Cespedes underwent X-rays, which came back negative. His two long balls snapped a streak of 25 games without a home run, though he won the home run derby earlier in July.
The A’s are 22-11 over the last 33 games and have won six of their last 11 home games. … Wednesday marks the 20th time Oakland has scored nine or more runs this season, and and are 3-2 on this six game homestand. … Coco Crisp walked three times, which ties the season high for any A’s batter. … John Jaso is 15-34 over his last 10 games and 27-78 over the last 25. … Jesse Chavez picks up his eighth win of the season, which is as many as he had before joining the club, in 191 appearances.