The Oakland A’s rolled over the Houston Astros 7-2 Sunday afternoon, sweeping their AL West rivals in a game where the benches cleared in the seventh after Rámon Laureano was hit by a pitch in his second straight at-bat.
Five A’s players were hit by Astros pitchers in this series, against zero Astros by Oakland pitchers. So when a Humberto Castellanos pitch hit Laureano for the second time in this series, Laureano finally and understandably lost his cool.
Laureano had already been hit by a Brandon Bailey pitch in the fifth, and also by Castellanos in Friday night’s 13-inning, 3-2 Oakland win. Laureano was drafted by the Astros in 2014, and is known to not put up with any nonsense.
He and Castellanos had words as Laureano slowly made his way to first, separated by the base umpires who had rushed over to walk between the two. After Laureano reached the bag, he and hitting coach Alex Cíntron were chirping at each other, waving their arms. Cíntron finally gave him a wave like, “come here.” And that’s exactly what Laureano did, sprinting toward the Astros dugout.
Houston backup catcher Dustin Garneau tackled Laureano at the edge of the dirt before he could reach the dugout, as both benches cleared. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Robbie Grossman were the first A’s to follow Laureano toward the opposing dugout. Houston catcher Humberto Maldonado got physical with all his catcher’s gear on, pounding his way through players. Punches were thrown and hatred was finally being shown in the 29th inning played over the weekend.
Laureano and rookie catcher Austin Allen were the only players ejected. Melvin said he was unsure why Allen was ejected and is shocked that the Astros didn’t have one player ejected.
The MLB has made it very clear no brawls will be tolerated this season due to Covid-19, so any additional discipline or suspensions for Laureano or Allen could be stern.
“Well Ramon doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of that dugout and I think the league will know who that is, and that person should get suspended.”
Olson was on deck and quickly ran over to defend his teammate, he didn’t want Laureano by himself against an entire team. He said there was a lot of chatter going back and forth:
“I mean he was obviously hit a lot [three times this series] it was a curve ball. I think when he started going down the line, we heard some things that were said that weren’t right to him and maybe someone even told him to come over to the dugout, I think he was definitely provoked a little bit.”
Melvin explained where Laureano’s frustration may have come from:
“It is hard when you get hit. I think it was five times this series. We played it straight up. We didn’t go after anybody there, I’m not saying they went after anybody but to get hit five times, it is hard to swallow. So what you do is you go out there and beat them and that is what we did.”
Grossman gave the A’s (12-4) their first run and hit of the game off a Cristin Javier (L, 1-1, 4.32 ERA) fastball in the second inning that he raked just fair of the right-field foul pole.
The third inning is when Javier’s day turned downhill. Javier gave up three hits on Sunday, all homers. Tony Kemp led off and drew a walk, his eighth of the season. Marcus Semien walked also, then Olson popped a ball down the left field line. Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker sprinted over but couldn’t get to it and the ball bounced on the left field foul line.
The third base umpire called it foul and there was no challenge on the play, but Bob Melvin was not happy.
Olson said when he hit the ball, he thought it was going to land in the seats but the wind blew it toward fair territory. He didn’t run to first because he thought it was going to be well foul, and he said he was able to get a good view of where it landed:
“I was pretty close to the box and I had a view at it. I kinda thought it hit chalk, they said that it did after, ya I’m pretty happy we didn’t review it now.”
A tough break ended up being for the best. Olson swung at the next pitch and belted it over the fence in right-center to make it 4-0 A’s. His first hit of the series was a three-run homer.
Matt Chapman swung at the very next pitch and demolished it 444 feet to left center, making it 5-0.
After back-to-back walks to Bregman and Brantley in the sixth, Jesús Luzardo (W, 5-2/3 IP, 2 R, 5 H, 5 K, 2 BB) was relieved by Yusmeiro Petit after 89 pitches. Petit is the guy the A’s can trust to get out of jams with runners on. He came in to face Yuli Gurriel who already had a double and homer in his previous two at-bats. Petit walked Gurriel to load the bases with two outs, but struck out Carlos Correa to end the inning.
Melvin on the out:
“It doesn’t surprise me, no. He had to work hard too. That was the biggest out of the game obviously at the time. It doesn’t take him long to get ready and we had a mound visit. I could have stayed there longer but he was ready. He has been the guy for that job for years now.”
Luzardo earned his first MLB win as a starter and explained how the A’s offense gave him some breathing room:
“After Robbie hit that [second-inning home run], it kinda gave me a little breathing room. After Chappy and Olly went back-to-back they kinda just gave me more life. Gave us more energy throughout the game, not that we needed more but we got more.”
After everything calmed down in the seventh, Olson fouled out to right for the second time, and Pinder landed on second after he pinch-ran for Laureano, who had been tossed. Chapman hit a hard line drive down to left-field line which landed in the outfield corner for a standing double. Pinder scored on the play to make it 7-2. Canha struck out to end the most exciting A’s inning of 2020.
Burch Smith had entered for Oakland in the top of the seventh inning for the A’s and finished the game strong for the A’s. Smith struck out Tucker, his first batter, and Dusty Baker was ejected arguing the call to home plate umpire Nick Mahrley.
Smith struck out Gurriel and Tucker to end the game, having kept the Astros (6-9) scoreless from the seventh inning until the last out.