Behind three separate crooked-number innings, a dominant start from Daniel Gossett, and more perfect defense, the Athletics ran away to a 11-1 whooping of the Astros in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Gossett worked his best start since twirling a 7-inning, one-run gem in San Francisco, holding the game’s top scoring offense to a single run over 6 innings while striking out a career-high seven.
Houston pitching was far from able to match the effort, needing five pitchers and issuing a franchise record-tying 13 walks, included five with the bases loaded, as the A’s (61-80) moved to within one win of its first home winning record since its last postseason berth.
Gossett (W, 4-8, 5.02 ERA) surrendered five hits and walked three, but stranded runners in all but his final inning of work. This on the heels of a a 3-2/3 inning outing six days ago. Manager Bob Melvin said it is a big thing heading down the stretch, to have a young pitcher find a way to rebound:
“You have some tough outings, and you’re in the big leagues for the first time, you’re pitching to stay all the time. … To be able to bounce back from bad outings and have good ones, you look for that out of a young guy.”
“I feel like it’s kinda the same thing every time. One game, it’s good, then we go back to a sub-par performance. What I take out of this one is, I’ve got to be consistent.”
None of Gossett’s 6 innings were bigger than the third. After getting three big runs of support, the rookie right-hander battled back from consecutive walks leading off the inning to slam the door for a shutdown inning.
And none of the three outs he got were bigger than the grounder earned from MVP candidate Jose Altuve, whose line-drive single in the first was his 66th hit in this, his 45th career game at the Oakland Coliseum. After that big out, striking out perennial All-Star Carlos Correa was almost a relief.
“There a couple of the best hitters in the game of baseball. … But I’ll try and stick with not having runners in scoring position, that’d be great.”
The skipper said that escaping jams like that one in the third are significant signs of growth:
“He made some pitches when he had to. He was behind quite a bit, earlier in the game, and was able to recover and make good pitches when he was behind in the count.”
The Astros (86-55) were able to get multiple base runners only once more, in the fifth, but they were not able overcome lack-luster base running to score.
Alex Bregman, following a one-out double, was caught between second and third by shortstop Marcus Semien on an Altuve grounder. Not only was Bregman cut foolishly from the base paths, but he was unable to extend a rundown allowing Altuve to advance. Instead, the speedy second baseman was stuck at first, where Gossett picked him off to end the threat.
Melvin allowed Gossett to start the seventh, put snapped the leash after a leadoff walk.
Gossett, while happy with the results of his outing, was quick to find the minute negatives. And even quicker to get back to his inconsistency:
“It’s all about consistency. I’ve got to know what works for me and stick with it from start to start.”
Long before Houston’s bullpen implosion in the eighth, when it issued four of the Astros’ five run-scoring walks, Gossett’s fellow rookies got the offense cooking, with Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Boog Powell leading the way to a three-run rally in the second.
“Every time you can get a little support offensively, it’s always a good thing, helps you relax and go out there and pitch.”
The A’s added a three-run sixth, capped by Khris Davis‘ two-run single, bringing his RBI total to 101 on the season, the first since Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez in 2002 to post back-to-back 100-RBI seasons.
But it was the losing team’s bullpen struggles that blew the game open, with Reymin Guduan handing out five of his club’s 13 free bases. Starter Charlie Morton (L, 11-7, 3.86 ERA) was credited with the loss, allowing three runs (two earned) in 5 innings of work.