For the second day in a row, the Athletics jumped out to an early lead via the long ball. For the second day in a row, an Oakland starter was unable to hold Houston down.
Edwin Jackson, on the heels of his worst start in a month, was handed a third-inning 3-1 lead by Matt Olson. But like Brett Anderson before him, a sudden loss in command made Jackson (ND, 4-3, 3.03 ERA) vulnerable and the Astros (81-51) capitalized, tying the score and driving the Oakland starter from the game in the fifth.
This time, though, the A’s (80-53) were able keep the crumbling rocks from becoming an uncontrollable avalanche, holding the line at three until Nick Martini rocketed an RBI double in the ninth to give Oakland a lead and eventual 4-3 victory. Houston’s lead in the American League West division race now sits at 1-1/2 games.
Shawn Kelley did what Yusmeiro Petit could not one day earlier, taking over for his starter and stranding the go-ahead run in scoring position, and he was forced to go through reigning AL MVP José Altuve in doing so.
Just for good measure, Kelley followed his fifth-inning disappearing act with a 1-2-3 sixth. And in a tied game, not chasing a one-run disadvantage, manager Bob Melvin went to his three-punch All-Star combination of Fernando Rodney, Jeurys Familia (W, 8-4, 2.73 ERA) and Blake Treinen (S, 33, 0.95 ERA) who worked scoreless seventh, eighth and ninth innings respectively.
Familia got a huge assist in the eighth. Almost as if he hasn’t seen the endless highlight reel of throws made by Oakland center fielder Ramón Laureano, George Springer challenged the rookie. And attempting to move from first to third on an Alex Bregman single up the middle proved to be a foolish decision as the Houston lead-off man was gunned down for the first out at third with Altuve due up.
Laureano haunted the Astros in the top of the ninth as well, walking with one down and scoring the winning run on a Martini ground-rule double to right-center.
Jackson’s command issues, leading to a three-run Bregman double, didn’t come until after Houston starter Charlie Morton (ND, 13-3, 3.14 ERA) suffered a similar fate.
Morton, who allowed more walks (4) than hits (3) in his 4-2/3 innings of work, gave the A’s a rally for free in the third, walking Jed Lowrie with two outs then hitting Khris Davis on the elbow guard with a first-pitch fastball. Olson took advantage of a pitcher unable to locate his fastball, measuring a first-pitch curveball before keying a second, and when Morton gave him a second hook in a row — a nearly identical pitch — the Oakland first baseman smoked it off the facade of the second deck for a three-run homer (24).
The A’s, who jumped to an early lead Monday on the strength of two two-run dingers, have now hit a league-leading 117 road homers this season and are 60 from setting a new franchise record for total homers in a season (243, set in 1996) with 29 games left on the schedule — are averaging 1.38 home runs per game.
In the end, it wasn’t a homer that gave the A’s their rebound victory, it was a double, the first Oakland run of the series not to come product of a long ball, handing Houston closer Roberto Osuna (L, 1-2, 2.84 ERA) a loss.
Oakland will send Trevor Cahill (5-3, 3.44 ERA) to the mound for Wednesday’s finale in search of a series victory to erase another game for their debt in the division race. Houston will counter with Dallas Keuchel (10-10, 3.54 ERA).
The A’s placed Brett Anderson on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left forearm. Anderson pitched Monday allowing seven hits and five runs in 2-2/3 innings. Reliever Ryan Dull was recalled from Triple-A Nashville to replace the southpaw starter on the 25-man roster. … Sean Manaea, who was placed on the 10-day DL Monday, was diagnosed with left rotator cuff tendinitis. His availability for the remainder of this season is uncertain, per reports.