Houston hammers Montas, secures sweep of A’s

The Astros jumped on starter Frankie Montas and the Athletics early. And in the same way they had done all series, they never let up.

Shortstop Carlos Correa singled with two outs in the top of the first, then scored on a RBI double off the left-center field wall by first baseman Yulieski Gurriel. Right fielder Josh Reddick followed with a line drive RBI single that squeezed over shortstop Marcus Semien‘s glove, but was tagged out trying to stretch it into a double.

Montas (L, 3-1, 2.67 ERA) would suffer his worst start of the season, serving up seven runs — though two were unearned — in 5-1/3 innings taking the sweep-sealing loss 7-3 Thursday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum.

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

Montas, who had won his first three starts, said he wasn’t executing the way he had previously:

“I felt like my stuff was the same [as the last three starts] but I wasn’t really executing my pitches as I was in the past.”

Houston looked to take advantage of that lacking execution and add on more in the second when left fielder Marwin Gonzalez tripled down the right field line with one out. But he was tagged out attempting to score on a Brian McCann grounder and the Astros (45-25) were turned away without scoring in the frame.

Khris Davis put Oakland (34-35) on the board in the bottom of the second, crushing a solo shot (20) to left.

The Astros answered right in the third on a RBI single from Correa.

Stephen Piscotty led off the bottom half of the third with a single, but Houston starter Justin Verlander (W, 9-2, 1.61 ERA) got two strikeouts and a fly out to quash any semblance of a rally.

Houston continued its assault in the fourth inning with a two-run home run from McCann. They then loaded the bases before Montas got Correa to ground into an inning-ending double play.

By the time the fourth inning ended, Montas’ ERA had doubled. He came in with a very respectable 1.25.

Matt Chapman committed an error on a McCann ground ball to start the sixth, which came directly after Chapman lost a foul ball in the sun. Tony Kemp followed with a single. Chapman then fielded an Alex Bregman grounder, stepped on third for the first out but overthrew Matt Olson at first.

Kemp never stopped running, sliding under the Lucroy tag at home to push the Astros lead to 6-1. Altuve drove in Bregman with a double to finish the Astros scoring for the day.

“I saw both of those balls off the bat initially, and then I lost them in the sun. Marcus (Semien) and Jed (Lowrie) told me, ‘If you don’t see it, say something.’ But I think I was so focused on trying to get vision of that ball that I forgot to say something.”

Manager Bob Melvin didn’t appear too concerned with his third baseman’s defense. He said that if a solution needs to be found, they’ll work on it with Chapman, who said he doesn’t feel comfortable with sunglasses. Said Melvin:

“He just lost a couple of balls. He’s never been a sunglasses guy, he’s never had a problem with it before, even in Spring Training. If we have to do something and he needs to wear some sunglasses, we’ll look at that.”

Montas was pulled after the Chapman errors, capping off 5-1/3 shaky innings. He ended his outing with 94 total pitches and five earned runs:

“I tried to battle, but I got behind a lot of really good hitters. And that’s where my struggles started.”

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, Verlander got tagged for a couple of runs on a two-run home run by Olson in the 7th. He finished his day with three earned runs and seven strikeouts over seven innings.

Notes

Matt Joyce will take live batting practice Friday. Barring setback, he will be sent out on a rehab assignment, according to manager Bob Melvin. … Ryan Buchter is still several minor league appearances from being reactivated, Melvin said. … Trevor Cahill (achilles) was placed on the 10-day disabled list, and was seen in a walking boot in the clubhouse prior to Thursday’s game. Melvin said of Cahill:

“We really have no idea how long it will be — I’m not even going to try to handicap it.”

Prior to the game, Danny Coulombe was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Filling the vacancies left by Cahill and Coulombe, Carlos Ramirez and Chris Bassitt were each recalled. Ramirez worked two perfect innings of relief Thursday while Bassitt will make the start Friday.

Up Next

Oakland will begin a three-game home series against the Angels on Friday at 6:35 p.m. Chris Bassitt (0-1, 1.29 ERA) will pitch for the A’s against lefty Tyler Skaggs (5-4, 3.08 ERA).