A base runner essentially given to the Astros (79-72) did not affect the outcome, and Melvin withdrew the protest after the game.
Starters Sean Manaea and Joe Musgrove fed off each other, holding the offenses to three combined hits through 5-1/2 innings. It was Chris Devenski, however, that served as Houston’s savior, earning the win for his 3-2/3 innings of perfect relief, while the Oakland offense could put together just three hits for a second consecutive night.
Sean Doolittle (L, 2-3, 2.75 ERA), who suffered the loss after giving up a run in the tenth, said:
“It as another really tough loss. It was especially frustrating after the start we got from Manaea — probably one of his best starts of the year. To squander it is incredibly frustrating.”
On what was incredibly heady play, first baseman Yonder Alonso allowed a fluttering third-inning bunt pop-up to land on the infield grass before scooping it on a short hop. charging toward the first-base bag, he laid a late tag on Jake Marisnick, who was in the process of a head-first dive. After a momentary delay, first base umpire Clint Fagan ruled Alonso had not made the tag.
In the midst of an emotional outburst from Alonso, who threw his hands in the air contesting the call, base runner Teoscar Hernandez moved mere feet off the base where the alert Alonso slapped a tag on him.
With his hands in the air once again, this time in elation, he turned to his dugout pleading for a review, which was granted by the skipper.
Following a two-and-a-half minute replay review delay, crew chief Mike Winters ruled that Marisnick was in fact out, but that Hernandez had vacated the bag due to an incorrect call, and thus was sent back to the bag. Upon explanation of the ruling, Melvin immediately informed Winters, who would later eject Danny Valencia for arguing balls and strikes in the ninth, that his team would complete the game under protest.
“They said that the call affected what the runner did. In my opinion, if the runner was affected by the call he’d head towards second. … Once we got out of the inning, I rescinded (the protest) — I’m just trying to cover myself because I don’t know how you can get in the head of a runner and say what he was thinking.”
Manaea (ND, 6-9, 4.03 ERA) added:
“I had no idea what as going on. It seemed like Yo tagged Marisnick, then he got Teoscar. … I had no idea what was going on, but I just had to stay loose. After the play ended, I just had to forget about it and focus on the next hitter.”
Oakland’s “Throwin’ Samoan” found himself in another jam the very next inning, but a pop-out from designated hitter Tyler White ended the the threat with a pair of Astros aboard. White became the first of what was seven consecutive retired by the starter, who finished allowing three hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Perhaps more important than his performance, given the standings, is Manaea’s return to full health in his second start following a second stint on the disabled list:
“No problems at all — didn’t feel anything. Everything just felt like it was on tonight.”
He found his groove in the middle innings, while a one-out sixth-inning was the undoing for Musgrove (ND, 3-4, 4.42 ERA), who struck out four and walked three.
Stephen Vogt then greeted reliever Devenski (W, 4-4, 1.98 ERA) with an RBI ground-out, giving the lifted Manaea a lead in the dugout.
Houston responded with a run against John Axford when what appeared to be an inning-ending ground-out off pinch-hitter Tony Kemp’s bat glanced off the tip of Axford’s glove, altering its direction just enough to elude a dive from Wendle, who was forced to reverse his direction. Marwin Gonzalez, who reached on a fielder’s choice, motored home from third to tie the game.
The score remained deadlocked at one until Kemp led off the tenth with a booming double off Sean Doolittle (L, 2-3, 2.75 ERA). He was driven in on another ground-ball that snuck just past a diving Wendle. Despite being a late entrant into the contest, Kemp (2-for-2) joined Springer (2-for-5) as the only players to post a multi-hit performance.
Astro closer Ken Giles survived an intense scare in the tenth, as a bases-loaded liner from Smolinski landed just foul down the left-field line. Instead, Giles induced a lazy pop-out from the Oakland outfielder before striking out Wendle to earn save No. 13.
Melvin addressed his team being on the wrong end of those few inches that decided the game:
“It was (frustrating). Smolinski, the first pitch off his bat, looks like that’s a double down the line and the game is over. … Not much you can do about that foot either way. We kept battling.”
Having already clinched a losing record (6-12) against the Astros, the A’s will play for respect in their season finale with their divisional rivals. Houston native Daniel Mengden (2-7, 5.68 ERA) will get the nod, facing Collin McHugh (11-10, 4.66 ERA) in the Wednesday matinee.