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Lockdown pitching and a two-run homer from Matt Olson carried the Oakland A’s to a 3-1 win over the Houston Astros Thursday afternoon.

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The win cements at 7-3 the A’s 2020 record over the Astros and shoves the Astros 6-1/2 games behind Oakland for the AL West crown with just 18 games left.

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

The A’s (27-15) won four of five games against Houston (22-23) to nearly triple their 2-1/2 game lead over Houston. Bob Melvin said:

“Anytime you have these guys coming in, its going to be a tough series and on top of it, its going to be five games so there could be a big swing one way or the other, obviously we would like to have it go our way and we did enough to take four out of the five which is huge so the whole lineup, the type of pitching we had this entire series was phenomenal. Its what we were looking for. It is hard to do but we were looking for it.”

Oakland A’s LHP Sean Manaea (W, 4-2, 4.46 ERA) followed one of his best starts of 2020 with another strong outing. Saturday, he held an impressive San Diego Padres lineup to just one run through five innings and struck out five batters, a season high. Today he retired the first 15 batters in just 44 pitches before his perfect streak was snapped in the sixth by a Josh Reddick double.

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Manaea leads the team in starts (9) and, though he has historically struggled against the Astros with a 2-5 career record and 3.48 ERA in 12 starts, he had no such trouble on Thursday; he allowed only two hits while striking out four with zero walks.

Bob Melvin was very impressed with Manaea on Thursday:

“Oh it was terrific, it made it hard on them. What was it, 66 pitches in seven innings but our bullpen is doing a pretty good job finishing it off so really, gives up two hits and then next thing you know it is a double play ball and that limits the damage in that inning. … Good change up, hitting his spots, obviously getting early count contact to have that kind of pitch count, after 7 innings it’s phenomenal … He has found different ways to succeed and today was more staying off the barrel of the bat, maybe less swings and misses than the last time out but he was equally effective.”

Reddick led off the inning off with a double that was just fair down the first base line and landed in the right field corner. Aledmys Diaz followed with a solid single up the middle, and Ramon Laureano threw home to catcher Jonah Heim to keep Reddick on third, who had been held by third base coach Gary Pettis to put runners on the corners with no outs. Martin Maldonado hit into a double play, scoring Reddick to make it 1-0.

Manaea believes he pitched well and gave the Astros credit on their only two hits:

“Well I mean the fastball to Reddick was pretty much down the middle and same thing with the changeup to Diaz, I just hung it and they put good swings on balls. Not much I could do there, just got a first pitch double play so I wouldn’t say it was a bad inning.”

Laureano walked on four straight balls with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and Olson followed with a dinger to give the A’s a 2-1 lead. Olson launched a fastball down the middle over the right field wall for his 12th long ball of the season.

Olson’s home run took forever to fall and when it finally dropped, it was well over the fence. Canha was playing right field and explained that the air was weird the entire series. Melvin said:

“As long as it goes out of the ballpark, I am happy with it, but yeah it was up there for a while. Lost it in the haze, whatever is up there, and i don’t know if earlier in the day there were some balls that didn’t go so you aren’t really sure on a day like this but it got out plenty.”

Manaea said the key to his success today was that he has finally started to believe in himself:

“I mean I pretty much just started believing in myself and I knew I’m an A, I knew I could go out there and pitch and the first, I don’t know how many games it was over but those were tough. … I really just had the confidence to go out there and battle through whatever I was going through is what I had to do and I think the main thing is just believing in myself.”

The game lasted just two hours and 18 minutes and, with both starting pitchers pitching well, it was expected to be a quick game.

Andre Scrubb came out to pitch the seventh, replacing Urquidy (L, 0-1, 3.72 ERA) who completed six full innings, the most he has pitched this season. Urquidy allowed two runs off one hit and three walks and his only strikeout was Laureano in the final out of the first inning.

Scrubb walked Canha, the first batter he faced. Canha stole second for the A’s 18th stolen base this season. Chad Pinder singled up the middle, scoring Canha from second to advance the A’s lead 3-1.

Melvin explained how the team exceled in this series without two key starters, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Chapman:

“The pitching the way it has been, a couple of timely hits, some good defense and finish it off with bullpen doing just enough … Good contributions up and down the lineup. It means everyone is involved and it is just a happier room for that.”

Liam Hendriks pitched the final inning of the game with a 3-1 cushion, and every time Hendriks pitches for the A’s, the A’s win. It was his third back-to-back outing in a row and he has saved every game he has entered. Hendriks has 12 saves in 20-1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts.

Melvin said that Hendriks does better after pitching three games in a row rather than taking an off day:

“He is the one guy I don’t really worry about that. He communicates pretty well so he is pretty fired up when he goes out there. He typically will feel better on the third day than he will two, one off and then the day after that so we try to get to know our guys.”

Oakland still has 18 games to play, with 11 on the road. They also need to face the MLB-leading Dodgers (32-12) during the final series of the season in Los Angeles. Canha said this series win is great but it’s not over:

“I think we are happy with the way that this series went but at the same time we know the job is not over and we still have a pretty hectic week especially with this next week, it is going to be a tough stretch.  A lot of baseball in a short amount of time. Kinda the mindset is, keep going and keep our head down and keep rolling.”

Up Next

The Oakland A’s head to Texas Friday. The A’s currently lead the Rangers 5-1 so far this season. Mike Fiers (4-2, 4.93 ERA) will face Texas Rangers Jordan Lyles (1-4, 8.07 ERA) to start the four-game series.

Notes

Matt Chapman has participated in no baseball activity all week. … Stephen Piscotty will take some at-bats tomorrow. … Vimael Machin lined out to left to end the eighth inning, snapping his 10-game streak of reaching base safely as the A’s designated hitter. … Jake Diekman pitched the eighth inning, marking his 16th appearance without allowing a single run.


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