The Athletics had Gerrit Cole and Houston against the ropes with a pair of early two-run homers. But the Astros jumped all over a sudden lapse in location from Brett Anderson, plating five in a deciding third to claim a 11-4 victory at Minute Maid Park Monday.
In the first game of a three-game set that could go a long way in deciding the outcome of the American League West, Oakland came out throwing haymakers facing a pitcher against whom they had fallen four times already this season.
Cole (W, 12-5, 2.85 ERA) recovered from the Marcus Semien (11) and Matt Chapman (21) homers, though, surviving six innings while holding the A’s (79-53) to four runs on four hits and two walks. The night could not have gone any more opposite for Anderson (L, 3-4, 4.02 ERA), who cruised through two scoreless frames before seeing his evening implode in the form of four consecutive one-out hits in the third.
With the win, the Astros (81-50) now lead the division by 2-1/2 games and cannot fall out of first in this series.
Anderson was at the center of Oakland’s pitching success through the first three weeks of August, allowing 12 hits and two runs in his first four starts of the month.
Facing one more than the minimum, the first two innings of Anderson’s fifth August start appeared to be falling right in line with the previous four. The veteran southpaw recorded one strikeout and three groundouts — including one double play — with a sinker-changeup combination that has been so good of late. But almost as if someone else slide into his jersey, Anderson’s knee-high location evaporated and the his evening went sideways after coaxing a popout from Josh Reddick to begin the third.
Alex Bregman and José Altuve followed Springer’s lead, hammering mistakes for RBI doubles before Stephen Piscotty gave his starter a momentary reprieve with a diving snag in right to rob Carlos Correa of a run-scoring hit. The moment was fleeting however, and a Marwin Gonzalez RBI single, coming compliments of a hanging slider, proved to be the finishing blow to Anderson’s night.
Yusmeiro Petit would put the third on ice, but not until after surrendering a hit to score Anderson’s final run. When it was all said and done, the A’s starter was tagged with more runs (five) in his 2-2/3 innings Monday than he had in his 26-2/3 previous August innings.
The run scored on Petit’s watch may have been the biggest, thought, as it gave the Astros their first lead.
Cole had allowed eight runs and two home runs in his firs four starts (24-2/3 innings) against Oakland this season, but Oakland roughed him up a bit early. First, Semien pulverized a 1-0 middle-middle 95-mph heater on to the train tracks in straight-away left field scoring Khris Davis, who had walked to lead off the second, to get the scoring started. Then, Chapman kept the offense rolling, flipping a high-arcing flyball into the Crawford Boxes down the left field line scoring Ramón Laureano in the third.
The early lead was short-lived, and the quieted Houston crowd came right back to life in the bottom-half.
For Trivino, a rough outing that included two hits, two walks and four runs with just one out recorded is more of the same. The rookie finished July with a 1.25 ERA, since he has allowed nine runs in 12-2/3 innings (6.39). Trivino’s struggles came on the heels of a stellar big league return for Houston native Daniel Mengden, who fired four scoreless frames while allowing four hits and two walks while striking out two.
Mengden hadn’t pitched for the A’s since June 23, but he apparently found his way in nine games with Triple-A Nashville going 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA.
The A’s, who have lost one of their last 20 series’, will need wins on Tuesday and Wednesday to keep that streak going — doing so would allow them to return to Oakland just one-half game back of the Astros. They will send Edwin Jackson (4-3, 2.97 ERA) to the mound Tuesday.