The summer heat set off fireworks in Oakland Thursday night, as the A’s and Astros turned their game into a home run derby before a Matt Chapman solo shot put Oakland on top in the eighth for the 7-6 win.
After the fourth inning, four players would bash multiple home runs: Houston shortstop Carlos Correa (18, 19), A’s first baseman Matt Olson, Astros left fielder Michael Brantley (17, 18), and Chapman (28, 29) who each smashed a pair of homers in the combined 10-home run onslaught.
The A’s (69-52) opened up the ball game in sharp form behind starter Mike Fiers (ND, 11-3, 3.30 ERA), not letting any Astro get to second base in the first three innings. This would all change for Houston (78-44) once third baseman Alex Bregman stepped up to the plate in the top of the fourth. Bregman crushed a home run, scoring with left fielder Michael Brantley for the first two runs of the game.
Astros starter Aaron Sanchez (5-14, 5.60 ERA) opened up the door for the A’s in the bottom of the fourth, allowing left fielder Robbie Grossman a double on a sharp line drive to center field. And just like that, the floodgates opened. Olson, who leads AL first basemen in home runs, sent blast over left-center field, bringing in Grossman and Chapman.
Olson said he was happy to see balls flying tonight:
“It was awesome to see it fly a little bit … It’s real hit or miss here, when the wind’s not blowing, you kind of have a chance, but when the winds swirling, it’s hit or miss, like I said.”
The bottom of the fourth was a spectacle for the fans, with second baseman Corben Joseph joining the club and smacking a home run over center field and giving Oakland a 4-2 lead heading into the top of the fifth. The Astros came up with an answer, specifically, Correa, as he sent a homer over center field and brought Houston within a run of tying the game with Oakland.
Joseph was ecstatic about his first major league home run tonight, and basked in the surrealness:
“Just getting that ball off the barrel. I kind of blacked out there a little bit and the crowd woke me up. Just really excited to be a part of a win today … It’s crazy, we were locked in. To see Chapman, do what he did tonight, and Olson do what he did tonight, it’s impressive. It shows the will of this team, we’re willing to fight, and we continue going with the game.”
Houston tied things in the top of the sixth, with Brantley’s home run on a fly ball over center field. Fiers quickly put an end to it, striking out designated hitter Yordan Alvarez and not allowing another hit that inning.
Chapman led off the bottom of the sixth by crushing a home run straight over center field. Chapman set the tone before Olson followed suit and slammed a homer into right field that sent most of the 15,323 Coliseum fans into an absolute frenzy to give Oakland the lead 6-4.
Chapman loved the competition between them and the Astros, saying:
“It feels like that kind of game, you know? Kind of like a playoff game. Obviously, a really good team that we respect and that we want to beat. To be able to take the first game of the series like that, it’s huge and it’s a fun game, a lot of back and forth, got some good plays on defense and we had some good hitting on both sides, so it was fun.”
In the top of the seventh, Correa whacked his second home run to bring the Astros within one at 6-5 and ending Fiers’ night. Yusmeiro Petit (3-2, 2.64 ERA) entered and locked down the rest of the inning.
Brantley had more on his mind, as he clobbered a homer over the right field wall in the top of the eighth, tying up the game at 6-6.
Chapman decided to fully make his mark by breaking the tie in the bottom of the eighth, sending another homer into left for the final Oakland of 7-6.
Closer Liam Hendriks (S 14, 4-1, 1.56 ERA) took to the mound in the top of the ninth, closing out another game and securing win No. 9,000 in Oakland A’s history.
Oakland continues the four-game series tomorrow against Houston, sending Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.06 ERA) to the mound against Astros ace Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.82 ERA).
Chad Pinder played center field Thursday night, when he usually plays left field. Pre-game, Melvin announced that it was a little bit of a hand thing, saying he hit his hand on the wall yesterday. He said it’s best to take care of it the first day back as opposed to it lingering. With Ramón Laureano out, they needed someone to fill in the center field position. Melvin added that Pinder has been able to handle anything that they throw at him and that they are hoping for any soreness to go away.