In another close and exciting A’s game decided in its final at-bat, Mark Canha scored from third on a Ramón Laureano sacrifice fly to bring Oakland home as 6-5 winners over the Houston Astros Tuesday night.
Laureano always makes headlines when playing his former team, and he was impactful from the start until the very end. He stepped up to the plate in the ninth with one out and runners on the corners and flew out to center, bringing in Canha for the the walkoff win. The A’s are now 8-1 in games decided in the last at-bat, and improved to 11-4 in one-run games.
Oakland (26-17) and Houston (24-18) entered Tuesday in first place in the AL West, leading the Astros by half a game. The winner on Tuesday night would stand alone as division leaders.
LHP Sean Manaea retired the first two batters of the game, but a single and back-to-back doubles from Yuli Gurriel and Yordan Alvarez quickly made it 2-0 after the first. Manaea gave up 10 hits in his six innings, allowing at least one hit in each inning.
Laureano swung at the first pitch he saw with two outs in the first, a Cristian Javier 94-mph fastball that landed in the left-field bleachers to get his team on the board trailing 2-1. Then, Laureano led off the fourth and swung at the first pitch again, and again smacked another solo shot (10) to make it 3-2. Consecutive Laureano homers — along with a Matt Olson bomb in the sixth that tied the game at 3-3 — left Laureano and Olson tied for the team lead in home runs with 10 each.
Bob Melvin on the impact Laureano had:
“He tends to bring a little energy. Just the way he plays and the fight he has in him and talk about playing well against the Astros, the Astros are fantastic and the organization he came from. So yeah, we are down and all of a sudden Ramón shows up for a couple of homers and it feels like a different game. Whether it is defensively, whether it is on the base path, he always finds a way to be part of a win and today it was obviously a lot more just part of the win.”
Manaea struck out three with no walks and was replaced by Burch Smith for the seventh. Smith allowed Jose Altuve reach on an infield single before Brantley doubled to right field to make it 4-3. Gurriel sacrificed Brantley to make it 5-3 before Smith exited with his team down two runs. Smith allowed two runs off two hits and had a wild pitch and strike out in his one inning.
Javier threw six full, striking out nine and allowing five hits, three of them homers. Enoli Paredes relieved him Javier the seventh and it didn’t go very well.
Jed Lowrie walked to lead off the seventh before Sean Murphy singled to center to put two on with no outs. Paredes struck out Chad Pinder then walked Tony Kemp to load the bases before he was relieved. Andre Scrubb had to face top of the order with the bases loaded and one out. Mark Canha popped up to shallow center and Lowrie tagged and scored to make it 5-4. Murphy and Kemp advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch to Seth Brown, who flew out to end the inning down one run.
Melvin spoke about his team’s ability to come back late in games:
“We have seen this before multiple times where we get down a little bit. I mean really the day before yesterday same thing. We are down and come back and do our thing late so pretty good recipe, especially here at home.”
Sergio Romo came out for the eighth inning for Oakland trying to keep the game at one run. He allowed a single to Carlos Correa before Tucker hit a bloop ball back to Romo who fielded it and threw it to second while kneeling on the mound for a 1-4-3 double-play to clear the bases. Romo kept the Astros scoreless and down one run entering the bottom of the eighth.
Laureano walked on four straight balls from Ryne Stanek to lead off the eighth. With one out, Matt Chapman doubled to left center and Laureano scored from first to tie the game 5-5. The Astros intentionally walked Lowrie to put runners on first and second with Murphy at the plate with one out.
Murphy took three straight balls, and the “Let’s Go Oakland” chants got louder and louder as he worked himself into a full count before hitting into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with two outs. Altuve made a nice grab behind second base to keep Chapman from scoring. Bryan Abreu replaced Stanek and induced Pinder to ground out to end the inning with the game tied 5-5.
Yusmeiro Petit (W, 5-0, 1.82 ERA) kept the game tied after two strikeouts in the ninth. Abreu (L, 2-2, 3.68 ERA) came back out for the ninth and walked Canha with one out. Brown followed with a single up the middle to beat the shift, and the A’s had runners on the corners with one out. With Laureano at the plate, he flew out to center and Canha scored for another walkoff win.