Coming into Thursday afternoon, the A’s were 21-3 when out-homering their opponent this season. They are now 21-4, after the Astros strung together enough timely hitting to beat the A’s 8-4 and stride into first place into the AL West.
Oakland (26-19) loaded the bases loaded trailing by three runs in the eighth inning without getting a single hit, but couldn’t score. Houston (26-18) added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth to seal the win.
Oakland now trails the Astros by half a game, but Bob Melvin is not worried:
“There is a lot of season left. Typically these things flip back and forth. They have played pretty well here recently, they won what six in a row coming in here so they have won eight out of nine and they are just on a hot streak right now and that usually starts with their offense.”
Luís Garcia (W, 2-3, 3.38 ERA) threw just two pitches before the A’s got on the board. Mark Canha (8) led off the game with a solo blast to left field to make it 1-0. Tony Kemp led off the third trailing 3-1 and lit his first home run of the season to make it 3-2. The A’s had two hits in three innings, both homers.
Kemp told the media prior to the game he wore his neon green cleats for the first time on Tuesday when he made a beautiful catch, and he wore them again on Thursday and hit his first home run since 2019 when he was with the Cubs. He was happy to see the ball go over the right field wall:
“I think he was trying to go fastball away and it leaked over middle in and just put a good swing on it, felt good to watch it go over the fence. I wish we would have got the win but the boys were playing hard.”
LHP Cole Irvin (L, 3-5, 3.59 ERA) got through his first two innings scoreless. The third was brutal. Myles Straw singled, then Martín Maldonado doubled to left off the wall. Canha struggled to field it, allowing Maldonado to land on second. No error on the play, and the hefty catcher had a standing RBI double to tie the game 1-1.
Melvin said Irvin didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday when facing one of the best teams in baseball and their division rival:
“Probably didn’t have his best stuff. These guys make you work. He gave up eight hits in five innings, couple of walks, we haven’t seen that out of him. Got behind in some counts and these guys make you work. Then you throw the ball over the plate they get some hits, they string them together and next thing you know you are out of the game. Maybe not his best outing of the year but it was a pretty good hitting team.”
José Altuve walked to put runners on first and second before back-to-back singles from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman made it 3-1. Matt Chapman beautifully grounded a Yuli Gurriel grounder and stepped on third base and quickly threw to first to end the three-run inning.
Irvin explained what went wrong for him today and called his outing embarrassing but it was the first bad day for him and he walked off the mound with his team still in the game. He owned it and will make it a point to not happen again:
I just need to be more convicted in that bottom of the lineup and that is where you need to get your outs. Especially with a lineup with theirs, they have about 5 or 6 guys that can do damage and I didn’t make a good pitch to Maldonado all day and same with Straw. I just felt like all day I was kinda battling with conviction and really the way I look at it, it was an embarrassing outing because I threw some pitches that I didn’t have very much conviction behind and that is where I get hurt. Those middle innings I am going to make it a point to not happen again. The mentality was weak and it wasn’t where it has been in the past few outings.”
The Astros added two runs in the fourth when Kyle Tucker doubled and Maldonado homered to right-center to make it 5-2. Irvin allowed a walk and a single in the fifth but escaped the inning scoreless. Irvin was relieved by Burch Smith after five innings after allowing five runs on eight hits, striking out one batter and walking a pair.
Bob Melvin was ejected from the game arguing with home plate umpire Alan Porter after Seth Brown struck out swinging on a full-count with runners on the corners in the fifth. The A’s left two men stranded that inning, Kemp and Canha.
Although Melvin would not say exactly what was wrong that made him complain, it was obvious that Astros mound visits were taking longer than usual and the umpire was not controlling that aspect of the game. But here’s what Melvin said on his ejection:
“I said some things that got me thrown out… I was just a little frustrated and probably went a little too far… A couple things over the course of the game, probably my fault for getting thrown out.”
Garcia was relieved by LHP Brooks Raley after five innings where Garcia allowed two runs on three hits and struck out seven, but two of the three hits he allowed were solo homers. Matt Olson led off the sixth with a high popup to shallow left, and a lack of communication between Brantley and Straw let the ball drop, landing Olson on second. Jed Lowrie hit a hard line drive to right with two outs and Olson scored to make it 5-3 after the sixth.
Smith pitched a perfect sixth and had to face top of the order when he came out for the seventh, and Houston was able to increase their lead.
Altuve singled on a line drive to left to lead off the inning, keeping alive his 14-game hitting streak. Brantley lined out to Kemp for the first out, who tried to drop the ball and make it a double-play using his thinking cap but the umpire didn’t fall for it. He broke down the play:
“Ya, I probably should have sold it a little better. As an infielder you always think about those situations to where if you can maybe drop the ball and get a double play. Seldomly they allow it, it’s kinda like an infield fly rule. I tried to be savvy right there and try to get a double-play to get us out of the inning quick obviously it didn’t work but maybe next time I will act it out a little better.”
With one out, Bregman hit a ball that bounced just fair inside the third base line and landed in the corner, scoring Altuve for a 6-3 lead.
Off Bryan Abreu in the seventh, Kemp led off with a hard line drive to right field corner for a standing double. Elvis Andrus hit a hard ball up the middle and Abreu fielded it and caught Kemp in the middle. Kemp knew he was going to be out and told Andrus to go to second before Kemp was called out for being out of the baseline, but Houston never actually tagged him. Andrus would end up stranded on base to keep the score 6-3.
Kemp broke down the baserunning fundamentals of the play:
“I thought the ball was going to be to the left of the pitcher a little more so I could get to third. No outs in that situation, the rule is when you are caught in-between you want at least the guy to get to second base because no matter what it is going to be the same situation. If he looks me back, I go to second he throws the ball to first so no matter what it is going to be a runner on second with one out but if you could get into a run down maybe get an interference call, maybe a bad throw you never know what is going to happen.”
LHP Reymin Guduan gave up a leadoff double to Correa but retired the No. 7, 8, and 9 batters to escape the eighth scoreless.
Ryan Stanek’s first pitch in the eighth inning was a 98-mph fastball that hit Laureano in the shoulder. He then walked Olson to put runners on first and second with no outs facing the heart of the order. The Astros took a mound visit before Chapman struck out swinging for the third time, followed by Lowrie, but it was his first time. Murphy walked on a full count to load the bases. Stanek was relieved by Ryan Pressly with two outs and the bases loaded with the Astros up 6-3. Luis Barrera pinch ran for Murphy on first base. Kemp was the hero all game but grounded out to end the bases-loaded eighth inning.
Kemp has been noticeably better during the day games and he touched on what was different about today aside from the neon cleats:
“It’s funny cause I normally feel like in the past I don’t normally do well in day games but I think the trick once I got over here was to start chugging some Red Bulls before the game so I guess I will just continue to chug Red Bulls as long as they allow me. I just need to get consistent everywhere. I think everyone is playing their heart out, out there and it was hard fought. I think these guys remain positive and that is the best part about it.”
Guduan returned to face the top of the order in the ninth, giving up a single to Altuve. Laureano made a beautiful sprint and sliding catch to rob a double and quickly threw to first and almost got Altuve. Not the best Laureano throw, and he was not happy with himself after the play, banging his glove down disappointed he didn’t make it two outs.
Olson started a double play when Yordan Alvarez grounded to first, throwing to Andrus who tagged second but completely overthrew Guduan covering at first, and Altuve scored to make it 7-3. A play that could have ended the inning, instead allowed a run to score to make it a four-run game in the ninth. Gurriel singled to center, scoring Alvarez from second to make it 8-3 with two outs. Chapman made a diving play toward shortstop on a Carlos Correa grounder to end the two-run inning.
Andre Scrubb was looking to earn his first save of the year when he took the mound in the ninth with a five-run cushion. Andrus singled to lead off the inning and the A’s had top of the order due. Canha hit into a 1-4-3 double play before Seth Brown hit a full-count bomb to right field to make it 8-4. Laureano struck out looking on a full count to end the 3-hour, 26-minute ballgame.
The A’s get ready to play the Angels tomorrow and Kemp is excited to finally face a divisional team other than the Astros:
“You cant even argue, that team over there can hit. They can straight up bang at the plate and it was a hard fought battle for the series for us. We saw them earlier and we saw them now and they are competitive and they have the will to win just like we do and I will say it would be good to face other guys in the division other than the Astros for the next couple series to see what we got but I like where our team is at right now. We just have to continue to put good at bats together and play good defense and pitch like we know how. Its May so we have a couple more months left so I think everybody is just strapping it on.”
The A’s take a quick trip down south for a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. It will mark the first time the two AL West teams meet this season. James Kaprielian (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will make his second major league start and he gets to do it in Southern California, where he was born and raised. The Angels have yet to announce their starting pitching but the first pitch is set for 6:38 p.m.
Tony Kemp‘s third-inning home run is his first as an Oakland Athletic and 16th of his six-year MLB career. He entered Thursday batting .144 and after a homer, double and a walk, he increased it to .236. He reached in every at bat against his former team except with the bases loaded in the eighth. … Bob Melvin was ejected from the game after the fifth. … Oakland is now 8-14 in games decided by four or more runs, one of the worst in the Majors.