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Verlander clamps A’s, Semien tossed after controversial fifth-inning call

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A controversial call in the bottom of the fifth inning seemed to shift momentum toward Houston (39-20) as they went on to beat the A’s (29-29) 5-1 to clinch their weekend series in Oakland Saturday night. 

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A Stephen Piscotty solo homer wasn’t enough, and Matt Olson and Piscotty’s lack of communication to allow the third run didn’t help either.

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Stephen Piscotty (7) swatted a 93-mph fastball from Justin Verlander (W, 9-2, 2.27 ERA) for a solo shot to right-center off to give the A’s a 1-0 lead. But Verlander would hold them there, only just the one run in eight innings pitched.

In the fourth inning, Michael Brantley walked to lead off the inning before Yuli Gurriel hit a ground ball to Semien who flipped it to second baseman Jurickson Profar who got the force but couldn’t beat the runner at first. Josh Reddick hit a 2-1 pitch for a two-run homer deep into right-center to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. 

Robinson Chirinos followed with a base hit into the center field gap. Ramon Laureano ran the ball down and slid into it. On his way up, the ball bounced off his shoulder and fell to the ground. Chirino thought he could make it to second base but he thought wrong and was thrown out at second on a tag by Profar. Anderson got out of the inning down just 2-1.

The Astros continued into the next inning scoring a single run, after Jake Marisnick hit a standing double off the wall. Laureano must not have had help on how much room he had, because he hesitated towards the wall thinking he was about to hit it but he had room. Then a wild pitch from Anderson sent Marisnick to third, and with two outs, another poor communication play was made. 

A shallow pop up to right field by Bregman should have been an easy catch for gold glove first baseman Olson, who was chasing the ball with his back to Piscotty. Piscotty was racing in, but nowhere near Olson. The ball bounced and Olson ducked as if he was going to run into Piscotty and Marisnick scored. It should have been a third out that kept the score 2-1, but instead pushed it to 3-1. 

Bob Melvin on the incident where Olson stopped running and the ball dropped:

“It might have been some communication problems there too, cause that is a ball he usually gets to pretty easily. He might have heard something too that got him off it.”

The most eventful part of the game was in the bottom of the fifth. The A’s were already upset after letting an automatic out drop, which cost them a run. Then, a call that was under review for a minute-and-fifty seconds changed everything.

Laureano hit a line drive to center field before both Grossman and Profar struck out. Phegley connected for a base hit and, with men on first and second and two outs, Semien hit a line drive down right field line that bounced near the line and was called foul. 

Semien on the biggest play of the night that changed the momentum of the game:

“A game-changing play. That ball is called fair, it’s a tie game with a runner on third with our best hitter up. So, against the best pitcher in the major leagues, so anytime you are facing the best pitcher in the league you get a chance to get an extra base hit that ties the game and the best hitter is on deck and it gets called foul, its frustrating.”

The ball under review showed chalk coming up before right-fielder Josh Reddick dove for it. After the call stood, Melvin came out and argued the call. Semien ended up grounding into a fielders choice and, after reaching first base, yelled something, not directly to the umpire but definitely loud enough for him to hear it. 

Semien on what went down before the ejection:

“He said that’s enough a couple times, I said something else. I was about 90 feet away when I said my last word. I turned around immediately and I didn’t know. I just saw Bob running out there so.”

The umpire ejected Semien from the game, and Semien finally lost it. Melvin came back on the field and argued as well. Chad Pinder came in to play for Semien at shortstop. The team’s energy went down hill and, even though Oakland were down by just two runs, it seemed like nobody wanted to continue the game. 

Semien doesn’t blame the umpires for not seeing the white paint come up because of Reddick’s dive, but he explained why he was upset with the call:

“I don’t know where the position is supposed to be but when I’m on the field and I see a big screen at the coliseum and I see white paint come up, I think thats an RBI double or triple against Justin Verlander and that is why I was mad.”

Bob Melvin on Anderson’s injury:

“I think we got him out of there in time, he had been dealing with it all week a little bit.. I just didn’t want that thing to get any worse so hopefully he gets some treatment and is ready to go for the next start.”

Anderson’s side, his ribs, has been hurting or uncomfortable. Petit relieved Anderson who walked off the mound with the trainer after making the first out of the sixth inning.

Soria came in the ninth to close the game. Petit pitched like an Astros reliever from last night, lasting 2 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and the rest all zeros, not allowing a single run or man on base. 

Soria (4.76 ERA) gave up a home run in the ninth inning. Reddick had a base hit and then Chirinos jacked the ball 427 feet into center-field for a two-run homer that grew the Astros lead to 5-1. Soria threw him a 92-mph fastball low in the middle of the box, and the ball was long gone as soon as it hit the bat. 

On Deck

Chris Bassitt takes on Gerrit Cole Sunday afternoon for the final game of the series. 

Notes

Justin Verlander passed Cy Young with 2809 strikeouts. … Khris Davis returned to the starting lineup, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

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