A’s romp Keuchel, Astros, roll to rare four-game sweep

After Saturday’s doubleheader, Oakland and Houston Sunday afternoon seemed to hit the snooze button on the alarm clock for their bats.

It took a ringing solo homer from Matt Chapman to finally awaken the offenses from their Sunday slumber. But Ryan Dull and the Athletics bullpen lulled the Astros (86-57) back to sleep, while a complete and unforeseen loss of command from ace Dallas Keuchel gave the A’s (63-80) all they would need.

Oakland would add on any way, en route to swipe a 10-2 victory and a four-game sweep.

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

About his team’s sweep of the American League-leading Astros, Manager Bob Melvin said:

“I’m not saying it was unexpected but the fashion that we did it was pretty impressive.”

The Oakland offense was allotted their snooze time by ace Kendall Graveman, who lasted 6 innings while holding the American League’s highest scoring offense to five hits and a single tally.

Said Melvin:

“The only run he (gives up) is on a ground ball. … One-hundred-five pitches, and every one of them seemed pretty max-effort because there’s no break in tied game against a lineup like that. One of his better outings for us.”

A scoreless tie was finally broken in the fifth when Keuchel (L, 12-4, 3.03 ERA), after falling behind 3-1, left an 85-mph fastball out over the plate. Chapman unloaded, sending a 400-foot missile out to left center field for a solo homer (12).

Falling behind Chapman was just the beginning of Keuchel’s command issues, but the 2015 Cy Young Award winner was able to rally his way through it to escape the fifth, with the help of the aggressive A’s hitters, allowing only the one.

Three straight two-out singles from Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, scoring Altuve, would amount to the entirety of the offense Houston would muster against Graveman (W, 5-4, 4.48 ERA). But Keuchel and his lost control would give it right back.

Graveman said he knew it was only a matter of time before the sudden juggernaut of an offense at his back would break through:

“As a starting pitcher, you just hang in there long enough you feel like they’re going to put up some runs for you, that’s the way it’s been going lately.”

Following a Jed Lowrie single, Keuchel walked three of the next four, including a bases-loaded walk issued to Chapman. He hit Mark Canha with a pitch and, with two down, walked Marcus Semien to bring in the inning’s third run. Spanning the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader and Sunday’s game, Houston pitching handed out eight free runs — the seven bases-loaded walks were a MLB record for a single series.

The Oakland youngsters didn’t stop there. Ryon Healy (24) and Boog Powell (3) followed walks in the seventh and eighth respectively with homers. And Matt Olson, looking to stay ahead of Chapman for the rookie lead in homers since the All-Star break, launched his own two-run shot (17), No. 13 of the second half.

Healy said of Olson:

“I can’t even watch him. I can’t even look at him. … I don’t look him in the eye anymore, I’m scared of him now, what he’s able to do. … He’s a really special player.”

The skipper, who said he is till looking for words to describe Olson has done, asserted that his offense’s recent ability to add on has been key to the five-game winning streak:

“Early in the season, that was a real problem. We’d get some leads … you expect to add on, then you end up getting bit in the end.”

Healy said there is even more truth in that sentiment when facing a team like Houston:

“If you don’t continue to score runs throughout the course of the game they’re going to find a way to come back, just because they’re that dangerous.”

For Keuchel, it is the first loss suffered at the hands of the A’s since Aug. 7, 2015 following three wins in three starts against Oakland this season.

The Astros did get back on the board, after a shutdown inning from Dull (H, 17, 4.79 ERA) with a pinch-hit homer (4) from J.D. Davis, the only Houston hitter to face A’s reliever Sam Moll.

In total, Oakland outscored Houston 41-15 in the weekend set and scored 10 or more in three straight games for the first time since Aug. 2005, benefiting from 25 walked batters.

On deck

After a travel off-day, Sean Manaea (10-9, 4.33 ERA) makes his return to Boston, the site of his worst big league outing — at least the one where he was tagged for a career-worst eight runs — in May of 2016. The Red Sox (81-62), inching toward an American League East title, will counter with Eduardo Rodriguez (4-5, 4.33 ERA).

Notes

The 15,892 announced attendance pushes the series total to 47,424, with $1 from each ticket sold to be donated to the American Red Cross and the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Houston. Jed Lowrie has pledged to match $25,000. … With four more home runs, the A’s pushed their season total to 208 surpassing the 2002 team for fourth on the all-time franchise list. … The four-game sweep was the second of the season — along with a mid-June sweep of the Yankees in New York. This is the first time since 1977 than the A’s have completed multiple four-game sweeps in one season.


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.