First-place Astros bring A’s back to earth
Oakland had hit repeat on Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration” in sweeping four from the Yankees to begin the homestand. But the Houston Astros wasted no time in changing the Athletics‘ tune, snatching a 4-1 victory Monday.
Daniel Gossett gave the A’s (31-39) a valiant effort, but a swing of the bat from Jake Marisnick was his undoing, and a sling of the arm from George Springer kept Oakland from bailing him out. The Astros (47-24) would add on, taking game one of a four-game set from the AL West cellar dwellers.
Gossett (L, 0-2, 7.20 ERA), coming off his major league debut in which he allowed seven runs in 3-1/3, tossed 6-2/3 innings allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out six without issuing a walk. Catcher Josh Phegley said:
“He was on a mission. He went out there determined, and threw his game, and was pretty impressive tonight.”
Manager Bob Melvin was just as impressed:
“He had a really good breaking ball today — curveball, we saw more of his slider-cutter last time, and with the slower speed on the curveball compared to the fastball, it kinda speeds you up and slows you down a little bit bit. And (he had) much better command.”
Things couldn’t have gotten off to a more ominous start, though.
Springer lined the second pitch of the evening into shallow left. Coming in on a full sprint, Khris Davis was able to make a diving snag, or, at least it seemed. Khris, ill-advisedly, reached toward his glove before coming to rest, and as he did saw the ball squirt from his glove to the grass.
Upon review — a coach’s challenge from AJ Hinch — the replay center in New York ruled that Khris was not attempting to make a transfer from glove hand to bare hand, changing the ruling from out to single.
Gossett worked around the knock, allowing just one additional hit into the fifth.
Evan Gattis led off the fifth with his second double of the game. And just when it seemed the Oakland rookie had worked around another threat, Houston’s nine-hole hitter Marisnick got second life, receiving a favorable call on a borderline check swing ruling.
With that life, he launched a 2-2 fastball below the zone for a two-run home run (9) to center.
“We were trying to go down-away and it kinda leaked over the plate down-middle. I thought that was a rough at-bat, we get a tough check swing call that could have (gone) either way, (Gossett) made some really good pitches. It was a crucial battle of the game, and (Marisnick) got the best of it.”
Gossett added that he overthrew the fastball “just a touch”:
“It just goes to show you, one pitch can get away from you, and that’s the one that hurts you.”
He did bounce back to strikeout Springer and end the inning, but the damage was done.
The Oakland offense finally mounted a rally in the sixth, attempting to get its starter off the hook.
Matt Joyce, as he did against New York, got things started with a double down the right field line. Chad Pinder made the challenge a bit more real, working a walk. And, what appeared off the bat to be a game-tying double by Jed Lowrie, gave Houston a chance to flex its defensive muscles.
A speedy Springer sprinted from his post in right field to cut off the liner in the gap before it got to the wall. Looking more like Derek Jeter making a turn at shortstop than an outfielder, Springer made a jump pivot throw without hesitation, hitting second shortstop Carlos Correa.
Correa, in turn, fired home to Gattis nailing Pinder on a slide. Still, the A’s had a chance when Astro starter Brad Peacock walked Khris to extend the inning setting up Yonder Alonso with two on and two outs. Alonso was unable to to cash in against reliever Will Harris, as his bat exploded on a weak ground-out to second.
Melvin said that challenging the Astros lauded defense was the right play in that situation:
“At that point in time, you’ve got to send him, and take a chance. We know Correa’s got a good arm, but we weren’t doing a whole lit, and when you get an opportunity to potentially tie the game you’ve got to send him.”
Peacock (W, 4-1, 2.82 ERA) gave up four hits and two walks in his 5-2/3 innings of one-run dominance. He struck out eight.
Phegley, who went 0-for-2, said Peacock was as good as he’s ever been against the A’s:
“He had that slider really going for him today. A lot of movement on his two-seamer … it didn’t look like he was locating it well, but he was just throwing it really and making sure it had a lot of movement.”
With solo homers in the eighth and ninth, by Springer (20) and Derek Fisher (2) respectively, the Astros finished the scoring and the A’s mini winning streak.
Gossett said his greatest growth between his first two start was his focus pitch-to-pitch. He added:
“I need to learn from this start as much as I learned from the last start, be able to maintain that focus throughout the game.”
The A’s and Astros face off again Tuesday night with the home team still looking for a win against their rival in Oakland (0-3). Sonny Gray (2-2, 4.44 ERA) takes his crack facing rookie Francis Marte (1-0, 5.19 ERA).
Bench Coach Mark Kotsay has taken an indefinite leave of absence to tend to his daughter, Sienna, who is suffering from partial loss of vision after being struck in the eye by a tennis ball. He hopes to be able to return to the team this season. Chip Hale will fill his role with the club in his absence. Steve Scarsone will move from first base coach to third, stepping up into Hale’s spot, and Mike Aldrete will serve as first base coach. … Third baseman Matt Chapman is out indefinitely with a knee infection. A timetable for his return will be determined after treatment. … Shortstop Marcus Semien (right wrist) has responded well to batting practice and is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment when the A’s head out for a road trip Friday.