Athletics

Instant Replay: Early errors prove costly, A's blanked by Astros

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Instant Replay: Early errors prove costly, A's blanked by Astros

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The A’s suffered a loss Monday that featured a couple costly defensive miscues, some squandered offensive opportunities and a starting pitcher leaving because of an injury.

That’s not the kind of script that leads to success, and unfortunately for the A’s it’s not the first time such a scenario has played out in 2016.

The Astros, scrapping to keep pace in the American League Wild Card race, rang up a 6-0 win in the opener of this three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Oakland mustered just four hits and couldn’t carry over the momentum from a seven-run output in Sunday’s series-clinching victory at St. Louis. Third baseman Ryon Healy committed back-to-back errors that contributed to Houston’s two-run second inning that gave the home team all the runs it would need.

A’s starter Sean Manaea departed in the fourth inning with what was diagnosed as a strained muscle in his upper back. There was no immediate word on the seriousness of the injury.

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Starting pitching report:
Manaea wasn’t helped by the Healy errors, both of which came with two outs and put him in a bases-loaded situation. But the rookie left-hander didn’t help himself when he followed up by issuing consecutive walks that forced in the game’s first two runs. It wasn’t apparent to the naked eye when exactly Manaea injured himself prior to leaving.

Bullpen report:
Chris Smith did well when called upon on short notice, eating up 2 2/3 innings. He allowed Jose Altuve’s solo homer in the sixth. He struck out five after relieving Manaea. Smith started the seventh by giving up a double to Teoscar Hernandez, walking Jake Marisnick and giving up a single to George Springer. J.B. Wendelken relieved Smith and promotely gave up a two-run single to rookie Alex Bregman. Following a double play, Carlos Correa knocked in Springer with a single to right. All three runs were charged to Smith.

At the plate:
The A’s had their best chances in the fifth and sixth to jump back in the game. They loaded the bases in the fifth with one out, but Coco Crisp and Danny Valencia both went down on strikes. In the sixth, with the score still 2-0, Oakland put runners on the corners with one out but Yonder Alonso bounced into a 1-6-3 double play to douse that rally.

In the field:
Healy has impressed with the glove since coming up from the minors, but he had a rough night Monday. He mishandled Marwin Gonzalez’s bouncer to his right, then couldn’t come up with Teoscar Hernandez’s grounder to his left, opening the door to the Astros’ first scoring rally.

Attendance:
18,613

Up next:
The Astros’ Collin McHugh (8-10, 5.01) has been very solid, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his past 18 outings. He’ll take the mound Tuesday with Kendall Graveman (10-8, 3.97) going for the A’s. First pitch is 5:10 p.m.

Bregman's big night against A's catches attention of his counterpart

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USATSI

Bregman's big night against A's catches attention of his counterpart

HOUSTON — A subplot to Friday night’s game at Minute Maid Park is one that will likely repeat itself often over the next few years.

The A’s and Astros boast two of the better young third basemen in the American League in Matt Chapman and Alex Bregman. Both are under 25, excellent with the glove and sure to face each other plenty as AL West opponents. The difference right now is Bregman is a key piece to a team likely to contend for the World Series.

Dallas Keuchel dominated the A’s on the mound Friday, but he got a huge assist from his 23-year-old third baseman.

Bregman made several standout defensive plays and drilled an opposite-field homer off Sean Manaea in the Astros’ 3-1 victory. Paying close attention from the opposing dugout was Chapman, who’s part of the A’s young nucleus that’s taking its lumps as it tries to learn how to win consistently at the major league level.

“He definitely showed up ready to play today,” Chapman said of Bregman. “He was all over the place at third base. I like to watch opposing third basemen and see what they kind of do. He’s definitely good at his craft.”

The two know each other well. Chapman, 24, played at Cal State Fullerton while Bregman attended LSU. They never faced each other in college, but they played together on Team USA in the summer of 2013, and Chapman praised the way Bregman goes about the game.

“(Bregman) literally is a shortstop playing third,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “So the ones on the run, especially to his backhand, he’s used to making those plays. He was significant in where the game went.”

Bregman has filled in at shortstop lately for Houston with Carlos Correa on the disabled list, though Marwin Gonzalez played short Friday.

Manaea, his fastball still lacking its typical zip of late, went six solid innings and showed improvement after three consecutive poor outings. The difference Friday was his ability to pitch inside better. He had a good changeup to offset a slider that he’s still trying to rediscover the feel for.

“I was just trying to let loose and not worry too much about the little things —mechanics , pitch grips, finishing through the ball,” Manaea said. “Today I just threw everything out the window and let my arm take care of everything.”

But his margin for error was minuscule with Keuchel dealing over seven innings of three-hit ball. Manaea fell behind Bregman 2-0 in the third and watched Bregman deposit a ball into the right field seats. Manaea then got ahead 0-2 on the next hitter, MVP candidate Jose Altuve. He tried to go high and tight with a fastball but caught too much plate, and Altuve made it back-to-back homers.

Former Athletic Josh Reddick singled home another run off Manaea in the sixth for a 3-0 Houston lead.

That was sufficient for Keuchel, whose repertoire was an eye-opener for Chapman and some of the A’s other young hitters. Chapman -- who came in leading AL rookies in runs, homers, RBI and extra base hits since the All-Star break -- doubled off the lefty in the fifth. But the A's only run came on Matt Joyce's eighth-inning homer against reliever Chris Devenski.

“(Keuchel) was getting ahead,” Chapman said. “If he happened to fall behind, he was still making quality pitches. You can prepare as much as you want, but until you get out there and see for yourself, that’s how you make adjustments.”