A’s tripped by long ball in loss to Houston

Just hours after A’s manager Bob Melvin announced a contract extension that will keep him in Oakland until 2018, his team got shellacked by the American League leading Astros.

Houston took down the A’s 11-5 with four homers which scored five runs Wednesday night, in another grueling contest for an Oakland team in it for pride and practice.

A’s starter Aaron Brooks (L, 1-3, 7.44 ERA) had his velocity up, and his stuff was decent. But his fastball was left belt high over the middle of the plate more than once, and he paid dearly for it. Melvin said:

“It looked early on like his stuff was good. I mean, I saw 94 (miles per hour). He was missing location, and with the fastball, got a lot of the middle of the plate. I think they had quite a few of their hits off fastballs. But actually stuff looked pretty decent, just couldn’t spot the fastball enough to keep it off the barrel of the bat.”

Brooks agrees:

“It was a little up. It’s a good hitting team, especially with the fastball. And not to get it down as many times as I wanted to definitely took a toll.”

Brooks’ started his time in Oakland with some solid outings, the first was a win after pitching more than seven innings and allowing one run. The second was a loss, though Brooks really had a better outing than his first start with the A’s.

But his third, a frustrating trip to Canada where he couldn’t finish the second inning after allowing three runs in the first inning and finally being charged with eight runs, is the main reason his ERA sits above seven runs allowed per nine innings.

Brooks has been a serviceable at worst starter for the A’s, and his good starts outweigh the bad. Wednesday night shared too many similarities to his nightmare in Toronto, the 25-year-old allowing five runs in four innings, and giving up eight hits.

Houston can hit. They can certainly hit home runs, they are second in the majors in the category and have a few three outcome players — guys who almost always strikeout, walk, or hit a home run.

Despite some negative connotation with the term, several greats held the tag well, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds being two of the most prominent.

But Brooks will face players like this every outing in the majors. He’s close to figuring it all out. He’s got the stuff that is tough to learn. He says he’s got one thing he’ll need to change:

“Getting ahead of batters would be huge. That’s what I’ve done my whole career, not walk very many guys, recently I’ve been a little nibblish and not getting ahead of guys. … Continue to trust that the process is working.”

In just over 28 innings with the A’s, Brooks has walked only seven hitters, while striking out 22. Those are exceptional numbers by any measure and his 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings with the A’s entering Wednesday night places him ahead of Sonny Gray.

The obvious caveat is total number of innings pitched, though Brooks may become a staple in the Oakland rotation over the next few seasons.

Brooks may be one of Oakland’s most under the radar, highest total upside, players, in large part because of outings like the one Wednesday evening. A guy who can help Melvin keep hold of his job well beyond 2018.

Notes on Melvin’s Extension

The ink has been waiting for a quill to meet for some time, and while Melvin has been a national focal point for the worst team in the American League this season, upper management seems to believe the A’s would be much worse without him.

Melvin earned Baseball Writers of America AL Manager of the Year honors in 2012 after the A’s became the fifth team in Major League history to win a Pennant or Division after trailing by 13 or more games.

After winning the West with a 94-68 record in 2012, the A’s improved to 96-66 in 2013 and Melvin became the first manager to lead the A’s to consecutive division titles since Tony La Russa won three straight from 1988-90.

The A’s reached the playoffs as a Wild Card team with an 88-74 record last year. This year, according to a remark from general manager Billy Beane that Oakland’s roster wasn’t the best, the blame isn’t being placed on Melvin.

He’s being rewarded.


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