A’s rookies rock Astros, roar to Game 2 win

The future is now in Oakland.

The Athletics (62-80) ran out a starting lineup that, including pitcher Daniel Mengden, featured eight rookies. Second-year designated hitter Ryon Healy representing the veteran of the group.

Every one of those young starters got a hit and scored a run, as the A’s of tomorrow put a whooping to the American League-leading Astros (86-56) of today, 11-4, in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

Mengden (ND, 0-1, 7.07 ERA), whose 6-inning effort amounted to his best start in nearly a calendar year, said that this group of youngsters is close to being something special.

“We’re young, we’re hungry and we want to be here. We’re having a lot of fun and we’re winning. We’ll be a force to be reckoned with pretty soon.”

Manager Bob Melvin said it was the plan all along to get this group of youngsters, who have spent hours on a bus together, a chance to shine under the big league lights together:

“That was the plan, we were going to let the youngsters play today, and we were going to let them go, too. … We wanted to give them a game where they were all together, they showed up and played really well.”

A scoreless game through five, paced by Mengden and Houston starter Brad Peacock (ND, 10-2, 3.05 ERA), the Oakland offensive monster was finally scared awake by a Houston three-spot in the top of the sixth.

Answering a two-run homer (23) from MVP hopeful Jose Altuve, first baseman Matt Olson launched a two-run bomb (16) of his own. The 446-foot blast was Olson’s AL rookie-leading 12th homer post-All-Star break. But Chad Pinder stole the show adding two of his own, including a 394-foot opposite-field three-run shot (14) in the eighth putting a giant exclamation mark on a six-run eighth that began with two outs and no one on base.

Pinder told SFBay that the key to outbursts like this is remaining focused on one at-bat — putting a single good at-bat together, and following with another single good at-bat. And, apparently, he was focused on doing just that, made obvious by the fact that, after the game, he was unaware that the rally occurred only after two outs had been recorded.

An inning before the six-run eruption, Pinder followed a Boog Powell game-tying sacrifice fly with his first homer of the night, a go-ahead solo jack. That one, he said, was the more impressive of the two:

“We did a great job of situational hitting and getting the (tying) run in with the sac fly, that kinda evened the momentum. Then, to be able to do that and give us more momentum, that was big.”

Joining Pinder in scoring two runs — to the rest of the Oakland starters’ measly one run apiece — was the organization’s No. 1 prospect, shortstop Franklin Barreto, who collected two big hits — a triple, setting up powell’s sacrifice fly, and legging out an infield single preceding Pinder’s second homer.

The homer hero spoke of his affinity for Barreto, both as a player and a person:

“He’s going to be an incredible player for a long time. … He should know that every single person this clubhouse has the utmost confidence in him, because he is a huge piece to the puzzle going forward.”

In fact, Pinder, who has spent the past three years in the Oakland farm system, has an emotional attachment to the entire youthful group, an attachment most certainly reciprocated:

“You play with them on the minor league side, the dog days, you go through so much with those guys. To be able to do it all together in the big leagues, it’s very special.”

More impressive than beating down a heavily favorite division leader twice in one day. Even more than doing it largely with players still making a name for themselves. The young A’s put a loss on All-Star middle reliever Chris Devenski (L, 8-4, 2.66 ERA), who Pinder took deep for homer No. 1 and hasn’t suffered a loss since May 24. Since that most recent defeat, Devenski had been 5-0, with two saves, 18 holds and a 1.99 ERA.

Chris Hatcher (W, 1-1, 3.46 ERA) earned the win, his first in the AL, for his two scoreless-inning effort.

With the win, the A’s have clinched a winning record at home this season, their first time doing so since 2014, and ended a 10-game losing skid against the Astros, with three straight wins and will carry a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s series finale.

On deck

The A’s and Astros finish their four-game set with a Sunday afternoon showdown of aces. Kendall Graveman (4-4, 4.70 ERA) takes the hill for the home nine, looking for the four-game sweep. To do so, he will have to out-duel 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel (12-3, 2.88 ERA), who has already beaten the A’s three times this season and hasn’t suffered a loss to the green and gold since Aug. 7, 2015.

Notes

Astros catcher Juan Centeno was removed from game one of Saturday’s doubleheader in the second inning due to concussion symptoms. … The announced attendance for Saturday’s doubleheader was 19,244. Including the 12,288 paid attendance from Friday’s game, the A’s have raised $31,532 — $1 per ticket sold — in donations for the American Red Cross’ Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. In addition, the team will donate all proceeds from the 50/50 raffle to the same nonprofit — that total has not yet been given. … The doubleheader sweep was the A’s first since Sept. 22, 1998. Their 22 runs scored were the most in a doubleheader since Aug. 8, 1976 and the plus-17 run margin was the greatest in a doubleheader since July 22, 1975.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s sports director and Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.