A 91-degree game day calls for the long ball, and that is exactly what the Astros and A’s delivered: A 24-hit, five-home run battle of bullpens, from which Houston emerged 10-5 winners Monday to start the AL Division Series.
A Marcus Semien error in the sixth shifted the momentum, and the A’s couldn’t come back from a sixth inning where the Astros scored four runs.
The A’s have lost the first game — known to be their pattern — but are confident they can come out on Tuesday and perform well. Bob Melvin spoke about his team’s ability to come back and take a series after losing the first game:
“It’s a longer series, everyone wants to win Game 1, but we faced two elimination games and responded nicely so I expect the same tomorrow.”
Lance McCullers Jr. pitch a perfect first inning but in the second gave up a one-out walk to Matt Olson before Khris Davis crushed a first-pitch, 93.5-mph sinker it to right-center for an early 2-0 lead.
Chris Bassitt said the team has been noticing that Davis is back, that the world is finally starting to see it. Matt Olson spoke about the designated-hitter:
“[Davis] can do things that not everybody can do. You saw it today with that home run to right field. He has the most right field juice out of any righty that I have seen and for him to hit some balls like that, he hit the ball well last series, it’s good to get his confidence going and yeah, we have a lot of baseball left.”
Melvin said Davis’ two-run homer was huge and how great it is to have the home run hitter hitting the ball well again:
“Hits it kinda in his sweet spot out to right-center field, gets a hit his next time up. He has been doing his best work here recently … we feel good about when we have a lead especially with [Bassitt] on the mound so he will continue to get at-bats as he should because he is swinging the bat really well.”
Sean Murphy led off the third with a solo homer to straight center, his second in the postseason and as (nearly) always, no one was on base for the slugger when he made it 3-0 in the third. Murphy became the first rookie catcher ever to homer in back-to-back playoff games.
The Astros had four hits off Bassitt in the first three innings, but two homers in the fourth inning tied the game. Alex Bregman led off with a solo homer to left field to make it 3-1. Kyle Tucker followed with a single before Carlos Correa hit a bomb that bounced on the top of the wall in left field to tie the game at t 3-3. Bassitt gave up three runs off three hits in the fourth inning, and walked off the mound after the third out with 64 pitches.
Bassitt said he knew it was going to be a high-scoring game coming into Monday, knowing it’s always a shootout at Dodger Stadium, where pop flies can easily be homers:
“Early I was having some hard contact for the most part … and then obviously they hit two home runs off me. One of them was a fly ball, the one, Correa’s, I don’t care what ballpark were in, Correas was a home run.”
Bassitt said he didn’t pitch great and everything was up. He said the ball just wasn’t moving the way he wanted it to.
Olson wanted in on the long ball game and made his first postseason hit a leadoff solo shot to right-center in the fourth to give the A’s back their lead at 4-3. Olson was happy to make a contribution and spoke on his homer after the struggles he has experienced lately:
“Anytime you can contribute, this hasn’t been the most productive year for me in my mind. You wanna come out here and produce especially being a guy who is in the lineup everyday and trying to work through those struggles so it was good to see that ball gets out and feel good on some swings today.”
McCullers got out of the third with just one run from a solo homer and did the same in the fourth, striking out two and keeping both A’s runners stranded as they headed into the fifth with a one-run lead and an 0-for-5 day when runners in scoring position. Melvin spoke on the A’s leaving men stranded:
“At the time you are putting together good at bats and you feel good about where we are. Like I said, we have trouble in early games scoring runs and we were not, we were putting together some good at bats obviously with runners in scoring positions wasn’t our best today but usually with our team and how we end up finishing games both offensively and in the bullpen we felt like we had a good chance just didn’t happen.”
Bassitt served back-to-back singles to George Springer and Jose Altuve in the fifth before Yusmeiro Petit relieved Bassitt with runners on first and second with no outs. Petit did what he does best, retiring three batters on just eight pitches to get the A’s out of a sticky inning. Bassitt lasted four innings where he allowed nine hits, two homers and three runs without walking a single batter and striking out four.
Melvin spoke on Bassitt’s performance, and Petit getting the A’s out of the inning:
“Just looked like some balls up. Usually he is able to pitch up and down with his cutter and his sinker side to side, looked like every ball that was up was more in the middle off the plate which he typically doesn’t do so yeah just a rough outing. He had a string of really good outings but they made him work and scored some runs. We still had a chance, Petit came in and cleaned it up but again, the sixth inning ended up being our toughest inning.”
Semien hit a soft grounder to Bregman who made a rare throwing error to first that rolled into foul territory. Semien saw the ball roll and landed on second to lead off the fifth inning. McCullers was relieved by LHP Blake Taylor before Chad Pinder pinch hit for Jake Lamb and advanced Semien to third on a ground out. Canha hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Semien who tagged from third to make it 5-3.
J.B Wendelken started the sixth inning and was able to retire the first two batters before a Semien error that could have ended the inning allowed Josh Reddick to reach base. Instead of the inning being over, Martin Maldonado, Springer, Altuve and Brantley strung together four hits to take back the lead at 7-5. Jake Diekman gave up the final hit of the inning, a Brantley RBI single to left. The Astros were finally stopped just one batter shy of batting around the order.
Olson said he doesn’t blame Semien at all for the loss and said errors are part of baseball:
“Tough play, Reddick is a good runner and hit it off the end of the bat and was rolling pretty slow and were in a shift so Marcus had to cut across over toward second base, it happens, things that happened after it just happens like that sometimes in baseball. Just put it in rear view and come back tomorrow and get a win.”
Murphy said there were plenty of opportunities to get out of the inning and it doesn’t fall on one person. Melvin touched on the play as well:
“We have to try to pick it up. Two out, nobody on and next thing you know they have 4 runs so have to give them some credit too. They hit some pretty good pitches to get to that point and even Brantley off of Diekman so they were pretty relentless after an opening that inning and took full advantage of it.”
The Astros bullpen kept the A’s scoreless for the most part and outshines the A’s bullpen. Melvin said:
“They had some guys with some velocity too and matched up a little bit, we just didn’t have the at-bats that we typically do at the end of the game … when you go into the late innings we have a chance to come back especially after having a pretty good offensive output early on, but just couldn’t do it. Give them credit, they played the later innings better then we did.”
The Astros added a run on a solo Correa homer off Lou Trivino in the seventh before LHP Mike Minor faced the Astros top of the order in the eighth. He struck out Springer, who had been 4-for-4, then hit Altuve in the leg with a 98.4-mph fastball before the speedy second baseman was caught stealing to end the inning on a beautiful throw by Murphy and a La Stella tag.
Rookie Jordan Weems walked Bregman on four pitches in the ninth, then Tucker singled into the right side infield gap to put runners on the corners with no outs. Correa hit a line drive to right center to bring in Bregman for a 9-5 Houston lead. Weems was relieved after three batters, all who reached. T.J. McFarland recorded the final three outs, one of which was a sacrifice fly from Gurriel to make it 10-5.
LHP Sean Manaea will start Game 2 Tuesday at 1:07 p.m.