Struggling at the plate, the Oakland A’s were once again pounded by the Houston Astros Saturday, losing 9-1 for their third-straight defeat in a home opener series full of drama, home runs and hit batters.
Cole Irvin made his A’s debut to start the game, diving into the rivalry on his sixth pitch by hitting Michael Brantley in the wrist with a 92-mph sinker. Brantley, the sixth batter hit by a pitch to that point in the series, took first base and would score before being pinch-hit for by Chas McCormick in the second.
Aledmys Díaz started at third base over Alex Bregman on Saturday and doubled off the wall in left-center to put Brantley on third with one out. Kyle Tucker beat the shift just inches away from a diving Tony Kemp and the ball rolled to Stephen Piscotty who made his 2021 debut in right field. The Astros (3-0) had their first run in the first inning for the first time in 2021. The A’s (0-3) did the same right after.
McCullers (W, 1-0, 1.80 ERA) held the A’s to just two hits, struck out seven, walked three and allowed only one run in six full innings. Ryne Stanek pitched two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. Enoli Paredes lasted 1/3 of the eighth inning and gave up one hit and walked two batters to load the bases before Brooks Raley escaped the inning and left little hope for the A’s entering the ninth.
McCullers had 33 pitches in the first inning and 77 by the third, but somehow managed to stay in the game a full five innings. Melvin was happy the team worked up his pitch count, but needed hits. The A’s walked five times and struck out 11. Melvin explained the positives and negatives of the offense:
“Yeah we made [McCullers] work, we made him work without a doubt. Made him throw some pitches and just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it…We have lost three games so it has been ugly, we haven’t played well yet so unfortunately that is the case. We battle around and stay in a game and then when you don’t score many runs, get many hits, it turns on one at bat and then obviously the ninth inning didn’t go very well for us.”
Irvin (L 0-1, 8.31 ERA) quickly loaded the bases with the first three batters he faced in the second inning but only allowed one run when Jose Altuve singled to left to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. Irvin kept the Astros scoreless in the third and fourth but hit another batter, McCormick — ironically, Brantley’s replacement — and then Diaz singled before Irvin was relieved. Melvin made a mound visit, clapped his hands for Irvin before taking the ball from him and giving Lou Trivino the green light to take the mound.
Trivino struck out Carlos Correa for the second out and then Yordan Alvarez hit a three-run homer to make it a 5-1 game. In Irvin’s 4 1/3-inning Oakland debut he gave up seven hits, one walk, struck out and hit two batters and allowed four of the Astros nine runs.
Other than the homer, Trivino kept the Astros scoreless until he was relieved by Burch Smith who threw a scoreless eighth. LHP Reymin Guduan was responsible for the other four in the ninth inning. Guduan pitched the ninth inning again for Oakland due to new closer Trevor Rosenthal being on the IL.
Just like Friday night, the Astros piled on runs once Guduan stepped on the mound. Guduan allowed four runs off four hits and a walk, and threw three wild pitches. By the time it was over, A’s fans started booing Guduan more than they were booing the Astros.
Bob Melvin on leaving in Guduan to finish the game:
“It’s the ninth inning where you are down by several runs so I am not going to use Petit there. I am not going to use Romo there. We have 10 games in a row and sometimes it ends up being a guy that pitches in down games and he is just having trouble throwing strikes right now. “
It was a long 3-hour, 24-minute game of just three Oakland hits, two from Matt Olson. Olson said he is not worried with the A’s 0-3 start of the 2021 season:
“We will be fine, just a couple bigger situations we haven’t nescesarily had the big hit and its fine. Its game 3, we have 159 more so, baseball happens sometimes. I don’t think we are hitting the panic button over here, we just need a couple knocks, some balls to find some holes and get some runs across.”
Astros bats have been consistent up and down their lineup in all three games, and they outhit the A’s 13-3 Saturday. It is still too early to panic but a win would do the A’s good when it comes to energy on the field.
The team doesn’t seem to have the same intensity when trailing late in 2021 games like during the walkoffs of the 2020 season, but Olson said he doesn’t think the game is ever over, despite who enters the game in the ninth:
“Stuff like that never really leaves you. We are professionals, it’s not like we are giving up at any point so everybody is out there grinding their at-bats and we are going to do whatever we can to score as many runs as possible.”
LHP Sean Manaea will get his first start of 2021 and looks to help contribute to the A’s first win of 2021. The Astros are looking for a four-series sweep and will start José Urquidy.
Three batters were hit by pitches Saturday, bringing the total number of hit batsmen in this series to eight. … This is the first time the A’s have started a season 0-3 since 1996. This is the eighth 0-3 start in Oakland history. … Lou Trivino struck out a career-high tying four batters on Saturday. … Reymin Guduan’s three wild pitches in the ninth ties the Oakland record for most wild pitches in a game by a reliever. … X-rays on Michael Brantley’s right wrist were negative and he is day-to-day, according to the Astros.