Springer, Astros bury A’s under 16-run barrage

Brett Anderson crawled out of the bushes five days ago to hush the Mariners in Seattle. He was not the pitcher of record that day, but his strong performance set the Athletics up for late-inning heroics and a win.

His first start at the Oakland Coliseum since Sept. 22, 2013 did not go as smoothly. Anderson (L, 0-1, 8.68 ERA) was pummeled early by George Springer and the Astros (22-15), and was knocked out never getting an out in the fourth inning of Oakland’s 16-2 walloping Monday night.

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

Manager Bob Melvin said his starter was just a little different compared his first start back in the green and gold:

“Didn’t look like there was much life on his fastball, breaking ball wasn’t as good. You just chalk it up to one of those games.”

Anderson called the night a “grind,” calling it an anomaly:

“Some good pitches that were hit for hits and bad pitches that were hit for extra-base hits. I don’t think Bob gives up that many hits in BP.”

Falling behind 5-0 in the second didn’t help the A’s (18-17) chances, but neither did facing the best Dallas Keuchel that Houston has seen this season. The former Cy Young winner looked like his award-winning self, holding Oakland to five hits and one run in his eight innings of work.

Anderson’s two runs surrendered in the first, before Keuchel (W, 2-5, 3.53 ERA) even got started, could have been much worse, given his two hits and two walks allowed. And it would have been, had Marwin González not ventured too far from first to initiate an inning-ending rundown of Alex Bregman, who attempted to sneak home while the A’s tended to González.

The Oakland starter used the Astro base running blunder to escape major damage in the first, but he got no such luck in the second.

After allowing back-to-back, one-out hits to former Athletic Josh Reddick and former A’s farmhand Max Stassi, Anderson started Springer, the Houston lead-off man, with a changeup, which he smashed about 380 foul down the left-field line. A fan behind home plate audibly yelled “don’t throw that one again, man.”

Anderson didn’t listen. He tried to slide the same pitch past the Astros center fielder in a 1-1 count. Springer launched it 462 feet fair for a three-run homer (8) and 5-0 lead. The 30-year-old right-hander said he’s still getting acclimated to facing this level of talent every fifth day after appearing in just his 19th big league game since 2015:

“Obviously, it wasn’t great from the get-go. Command within the strike zone was terrible. I had enough stuff to get to situations, or counts, where I’d like to be, just didn’t have enough pitches to finish them off.”

He  got out of the third unscathed with the help of a double play, but allowed the first four Astro hitters in the fourth to go walk, double, single, single, before he was relieved.

Chris Hatcher was hardly a relief, allowing four more to score in the fourth, though a Matt Olson error given to the first batter he faced didn’t help. Four of the six runs in the inning were ruled to have come products of the Olson error, his second of the season. Hatcher (ND, 3-0, 6.55 ERA) got through three innings, though, holding Houston to the two unearned runs.

Anderson said that while six or seven years ago he may have allowed himself to dwell on this struggles of this cumbersome loss he will wash it away and be ready to go the next time he is called upon.

Wilmer Font (ND, 0-2, 12.60 ERA) saw his struggles continue, serving up seven hits and five runs, including his ninth home run surrendered, in his 2-2/3 innings.

Bregman tried to let the A’s back into the lopsided affair before it got out of hand, committing a pair of errors of his own. But a two-out error in the second yielded nothing, and neither did his second leading off the fourth. Keuchel was too good.

The positives were few and far between for the home nine, but they did score a run, on a Khris Davis sixth-inning groundout chasing Chad Pinder home to avoid a shutout loss. And a season-low 7,360 fans were in attendance to see the A’s suffer their worst defeat of the season.

What those in attendance did see was Springer becoming the first Astro hitter ever to register six hits in a nine-inning game, going 6-for-6 with four singles, a double and a home run.

The Oakland skipper said chasing a massive deficit didn’t help his pitchers in dealing with the Astro slugger:

“He went from, like, .260-something (.264) to .290-something (.292). … He’s a good hitter, you’ve got to make good pitches to him and once games get like that you’re just trying to throw the ball over the plate, to an extent, trying not to walk anybody.”

But Anderson’s opinion differed:

“Nobody should feel comfortable enough in there to get six hits, whether they’re Tony Gwynn with Billy Hamilton‘s speed, they shouldn’t get six hits regardless of who’s out there.”

The All-Star center fielder also added five runs scored and three RBIs to go with González (3) and Derek Fisher (3), who each added homers.

Pinder and Jonathan Lucroy led the way for the Athletics, logging two hits apiece.

On Deck

Said Anderson:

“Luckily we have one of the best starters in baseball going tomorrow. Hopefully we can start a streak.”

Sean Manaea (4-3, 1.63 ERA) takes the hill Tuesday against Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1, 3.73 ERA). Manaea, pitching at Rickey Henderson Field for the first time since no-hitting the Red Sox on April 21, is among MLB’s top five pitchers in ERA, WHIP (0.66), WAR (2.1) and innings pitched (49-2/3), and carries a 2-3 record and 2.12 ERA through his first nine starts against the Astros. McCullers surrendered five runs in 4-1/3 innings (10.38 ERA) in his lone career start in Oakland.

Notes

Gretchen Piscotty, mother of A’s right fielder Stephen Piscotty, died Sunday nigh after battling ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Stephen and the A’s Community Fund have set up crowdfunding page in Gretchen’s name with the proceeds going to the ALS Therapy Development Institute. Donations can be made at youcaring.com/piscotty with all donations up to $50,000 to be matched by the A’s. … A’s players wore hats with the initials GP and RC in honor of the mothers of their teammates Piscotty and Yusmeiro Petit, whose mother died two weeks ago. … Sean Manaea will be pitching for the first time in Oakland since his first career no-hitter, on the 50th anniversary of Catfish Hunter‘s perfect game, the first no-no in Oakland A’s history.


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.