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A’s, Estrada throttled by Astros in Oakland return

The Athletics returned to Oakland following a three-city road trip Tuesday, and they brought with them an ugly, ugly brand of baseball.

Houston (11-5) is leading the AL West division for a reason, and they showed why, thrashing the A’s (10-9), 9-1. Three home runs, one a grand slam, by the fourth inning made it a long and quiet game for Oakland.

Only a Kendrys Morales sacrifice fly in the ninth, the lone product of a bases-loaded, no-out situation, allowed the A’s to stave off a shutout, instead leaving the home team on the wrong end of a 9-1 beat down.

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

George Springer led off the game with a clear statement, filling the count before launching a homer (5) 440 feet into the second level deck in left-field. For Springer, it was the second lead off home run of the season, and 26th of his career.

Things did not get a whole lot better for Oakland starter Marco Estrada, who said after the game he had trouble locating his pitches:

“I just wasn’t hitting my spots, just one of those days. … Try to forget about it as much as possible and move on, work on it, on your craft and get better.”

Estrada (L, 0-2, 6.85 ERA) wiggled out of the first inning, stranding one and holding the line at one. Back-to-back diving catches from both Matt Chapman near the third base coach’s box, and Robbie Grossman on the warning track in left field foul territory bailed out the veteran righty.

The Astros responded hitting the ball where no Athletic could make the play.

Josh Reddick hit his first home run of the season into right field, like Springer tagging an 86-MPH fastball from Estrada. This bomb gave Houston two runs and a 3-0 lead in the second.

The former A’s All-Star was happy to put his first long ball of 2019 into the stands in front of which he spent so many games patrolling:

“It’s always fun to, No. 1, come back here and play, and it is always a great feeling to do well against a former team.”

Estrada pitched 3-1/3 innings, using 69 pitches to give up five hits, three walks and seven runs. His shorter start against Houston in nine career starts. He hadn’t given up seven earned runs since September of last season.

Three of the starter’s runs scored after he had departed, though, when Alex Bregman took reliever Liam Hendriks deep to left-center for a two-out grand slam blowing the game wide open in the fourth.

Hendricks battled his way through former AL MVP José Altuve, striking him out to move one out from escaping the jam. But 1-1 hanging slider was his undoing. The matchup was not on the Aussie’s side, having faced Bregman six times previously and retired him just twice.

The Oakland bats were frost bitten — or perhaps still finding their way back from Texas. The A’s totaled just four hits.

Collin McHugh (W, 3-1, 1.96 ERA) did not make things easy. Four times in his six innings pitched, the Houston starter posted 1-2-3 innings — something six A’s pitchers combined to do just once all night (Yusmeiro Petit, 8th).

Manager Bob Melvin gave credit to McHugh::

“McHugh, he is good. … He is very good. He keeps you off-balance and throws few fastballs … when he is locating and getting ahead, it’s tough to string anything together.

Stephen Piscotty, Khris Davis, Chad Pinder and Mark Canha were the only A’s players to get a hit, all singles.

Two of those knocks, from Pinder and Canha who had replaced Chapman and Davis respectively, set the table in the ninth. But after seeing the first three batters reach, the A’s could muster just one run, on a sacrifice fly to the wall in right off the bat of Morales, batting right-handed.

On Deck

The A’s and Astros finish their two-game series Wednesday night at 7:07 p.m. LHP Wade Miley (1-1, 3.45 ERA) will start for Houston, and Frankie Montas (2-1, 3.18 ERA) will take the ball for Oakland.

Game Notes

The Astro’s have now won 10 games in a row. … Prior to the game, the A’s activated Chris Bassitt from the 10-day injured list and optioned the right-handed pitcher to Triple-A Las Vegas. … A’s matched their season-high of eight walks in a game, which was also against the Astros. … Bregman hit his second career grand slam.

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