The Oakland A’s are now two-for-two in the biggest series of this young, shortened season after a 3-1 win against the Houston Astros Saturday.
Solo homers from Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman help the A’s (11-4) defeat Houston ( 6-8). The duo contributed to all three A’s runs and helped stretch the Oakland win streak to eight games, standing 4-1/2 games ahead of the Astros.
Melvin on Semien:
“That is why he was third in the MVP voting last year . He leads off, he is durable, he is a team leader, he can run, he is a terrific fielder now, hits, hits for power, does it all.
Frankie Montas threw a two-hitter in his seven scoreless innings. Liam Hendriks pitched the ninth; he hardly ever allows a hit in the final frame let alone a run, but after a lead-off double and a base hit, the Astros earned their first and only run of the game.
Montas (W, 2-1, 1.57 ERA) mixed his pitches well and helped his team win:
“I was feeling way too good, that was the problem. I was feeling way too good, I couldn’t feel like my arm but I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes.”
Semien only needed six pitches off LHP Framber Valdez (L, 0-2, 2.04 ERA) to make it 1-0 to start the game. His 148th consecutive start in the lead-off spot tied Ricky Henderson, and the game-opening homer was the fourth in his career. It was the first time in MLB history that a player hit a walk-off hit to win a game, then led off the following game with a homer.
Semien said he is just trying to do what he always does, stay consistent:
“I was fortunate enough to react to a breaking ball and hit it hard so that is a good sign. You lead off the game with a home run that is the best you can do. Valdez was pitching good today, they did a good job with their bullpen being pretty short handed today. We did a good job staying in that game so that just shows have great Frankie did for us.”
Frankie Montas had the best start of 2020, and the A’s defense helped him out tremendously, especially late into his outing.
Entering the sixth inning with 75 pitches, Semien leapt and caught an José Altuve line drive to end the inning on just six pitches. Bregman led off the seventh with a line drive to Laureano for the first out. Michael Brantley swung at the first pitch, a 94-mph sinker that Montas had been throwing all day and raked it to center. Brantley watched the ball fly and Laureano ran back to the warning track and jumped against the wall to make the out. Had it been one or two feet farther, it would have been 2-1. Montas applauded on the mound and took a very deep breath in relief. Gurriel then grounded out to Olson who flipped it to Montas to end the half-inning.
Semien followed with a lead-off single in the bottom of the sixth on an a ball that bounced off Altuve’s glove. It was ruled not an error, but the next play was.
Semien stole second on a third strike to Laureano and Astros catcher Dustin Garneau threw the ball into center field. Semien landed on third with just one out, and Chapman brought him in when he grounded out to third, putting the ball in play to help the A’s advance their lead 2-0.
Mark Canha then walked before Matt Olson hit a high fly ball to right field. Altuve got under the ball and called off his teammates, but dropped it for an error. With two outs, Canha was on the run and didn’t get great help from third base coach Al Pedrique, who sent him home. Altuve threw to Garneau at the plate and Canha was caught in a rundown and tagged out at third to end the inning.
Semien said a lot of these games have been close and as a lead off hitter he wants to get on base and do whatever he can to help score runs:
“A lot of our games have been close cause we have been playing good defense and like you said, timely hitting, the pitching has been very consistent, it is almost surprising when we give up runs. That is a good sign, we are playing good ball regardless of what batting average it says up there, whatever. We are doing what we need to do to win games.”
Four of Montas seven innings were perfect. His only two hits allowed were both to Yuli Guriel, who doubled in the second inning and singled to lead off the first. Between Montas’ five strikeouts and the guys behind him, the A’s were able to keep Guriel from reaching home plate. Montas pitched seven scoreless and needed just 86 pitches.
Montas’ final two innings were perfect, and when asked if he wanted to go out for another inning, he said:
“I was feeling good. I’ll take seven innings. Could I go more? Yes, but that is not on me. We are just trying to win ball games.”
Jake Diekman kept the Astros scoreless in the first game of the series where he pitched the first extra inning with a runner on second and didn’t allow any runs to score and he did that again for the A’s in the eighth.
Astros starting pitcher Valdez pitched seven full innings and allowed two runs off five hits. He had six strikeouts and only walked one batter before he was relieved by.
Matt Chapman helped bring in the A’s second run in the sixth, and was the man for the job when it came to the A’s third run. Chapman lined a Nivaldo Rodriguez fastball to right-center to make it 3-0, giving him his third homer of the season.
Hendriks came in to close the ninth inning and gave up an off-the wall sliding double to Astros lead-off hitter Tucker. The ball bounced off the scoreboard wall in right center. Altuve grounded out to Semien before Bregman followed with a base hit that brought in the Astros only run with one out and a man on first. Gurriel grounded into a double play to end the game after picking up two of five Astros hits.
LHP Jesús Luzardo (0-0, 2.31 ERA) will hope to help his team sweep the Astros. Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42 ERA) will oppose him, looking to help close the gap in the race to first place.