After 13 innings and more than four hours of tooth-and-nail battle between the AL West’s top two clubs, the A’s gained ground on Houston for the second day in a row on a Robbie Grossman walk-off single.
The game-ending RBI was the first of Grossman’s career and came on the heels of seven scoreless frames tossed by the Oakland bullpen, resulting in a 3-2 victory Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Cal guys, Mark Canha and Marcus Semien, were the only guys to get hits off Houston starter Justin Verlander (ND, 15-4, 2.81 ERA), who was dominant over seven innings. Each had two hits, representing all of the A’s offense for the first 12 innings with a solo homer apiece.
Canha spoke about his approach facing the Cy Young frontrunner:
“With a guy like Verlander you just have to keep pushing. He is going to strike people out, he is going to have success. You just have to stay positive and keep grinding out at bats and try to get a good pitch to hit.”
Oakland (70-52) got an offensive jumpstart in the fifth when Canha smashed a 2-2 pitch to right field to give the A’s a 1-0 lead.
Tanner Roark (ND, 7-8, 4.01 ERA), who had matched Verlander’s zeroes for the first five innings ran into his own problems in the sixth.
With one down, Michael Brantley got the Astros (78-45) starter with a double. Alex Bregman walked and rookie phenom Yordan Alvarez blooped a single to left. Roark showed some evasiveness, coaxing an innocent sacrifice fly from Carlos Correa with the bases loaded then escaping what had been a bases-loaded jam with just two runs crossing. He did get some help.
With two outs and two runners on, Yuli Gurriel singled to right-center. Bregman scored, but Gurriel decided to push it and head to second base where he was tagged out to end the inning. The run scored before the out and the Astros had their first lead of the game, 2-1, but it didn’t last long.
Semien’s first hit of the night fell mere inches shy of the 400-foot mark in dead center field. His second made it over the wall in right-center tying things at 2-2.
Roark’s night was over allowing six hits, three walks and two runs in six innings. He struck out three.
The Oakland bullpen was even more successful.
Blake Trienen and Jake Diekman pitched a scoreless innings apiece. Joakim Soria pitched two scoreless innings and finished the night with two strikeouts. The hero of the night, though, was Lou Trivino (W, 4-5, 4.85 ERA), who pitched three scoreless frames, using 41 pitches to strike out four and set up Grossman.
Of the A’s pitching performance, Roark said:
“We battled all night long against one of the greatest pitchers came in big time. Relievers came in clutch, Lou, Jack all those guys came in super-clutch and put up zeros, it was a fun game to be apart of.”
Manager Bob Melvin said of Trivino’s work:
“That is huge for him. You have to go out there and be perfect and not lose the game. I think it was great for his confidence as well. That is a really tough lineup that he went through, three innings worth, he hasn’t done that in quite some time so that was really impressive to see.”
The A’s used the long ball early, but it was Grossman’s late inning RBI single that ultimately gave them the win against the AL West Division leaders. Bob Melvin on the win:
“You only need one run. We will bunt when we need to, we just need one run. With Joseph on base and Herrmann at the bottom getting the bunt over and then the top of our lineup coming up, we felt good.”
Chris Herrmann was the man tasked with laying down the rare sac bunt, and he did so successfully moving Corban Joseph, who had singled to lead off the 13th, to second. With the stage set, Grossman slapped a single to center, scoring Joseph.
“I just tried to get a good pitch to hit and whatever happens, happens. I had a chance earlier in the game and I didn’t come through and I wanted to come through that time. Especially with a day game tomorrow, I wanted to get out of here.”
Chris Bassitt will be the A’s starting pitcher Saturday. The Astros have yet to announce their starter.
Mark Canha has a career high of 18 home runs. … The A’s now have four players with 20+ homers, one shy of franchise record. … Justin Verlander struck out 10-plus batters, recording 11, for the sixth-straight game setting the Houston franchise record.