The A’s like their chances when the score is tied and a game moves to the late innings. But things aren’t necessarily going according to script for Oakland’s bullpen. The Houston Astros knocked Sean Doolittle around during a four-run eighth inning Saturday and dealt the A’s a 7-6 defeat at Minute Maid Park. Doolittle entered a 3-3 game to start the bottom of the eighth but gave up four consecutive singles and two runs without recording an out, as Oakland lost for the first time in six games to Houston this season. Luke Gregerson came in and surrendered two more runs on two groundouts to make it 7-3, aiding the Astros’ rally with a wild pitch. The A’s made things very interesting in the top of the ninth, as Brandon Moss connected for a three-run homer off Astros reliever Jerome Williams with no outs. But Raul Valdes finally shut the door with the tying run at first base. It was a sign that the A’s bullpen woes aren’t always relegated to the ninth inning when they’re trying to protect a lead. They’ll take the field Sunday looking to capture this four-game series and generate some momentum moving into a three-game series that starts Monday against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. The A’s broke through for a run in the top of the seventh to tie the game 3-3 against Williams.
Starting pitching report
Dan Straily got off to a rough start, allowing Dexter Fowler’s homer in the first and Chris Carter’s two-run shot in the second that put Houston ahead 3-2. Then the right-hander settled in and wound up going 6 1/3 innings, giving up four hits and just the three runs. He struck out seven and walked two. The overall body of work ended up being very solid, but Straily is still struggling to keep hitters in the ballpark. He’s allowed at least one homer in all of five of his starts and seven overall for the season.
Ryan Cook did solid work in relieving Straily and getting two outs to end the seventh with a runner on, but then things unraveled in the bottom of the eighth.
At the plate
The A’s continued their penchant for scoring early in this series, putting up two runs in the top of the first against Dallas Keuchel. But then the Astros lefty settled in and retired 13 in a row from the third through the seventh innings. After Keuchel finished warming up for the top of the seventh, he was visited by Houston’s training staff. Keuchel was pulled in favor of Williams with one out in the seventh, after allowing a walk and a bloop single. Nick Punto singled to load the bases, and Coco Crisp tied the game 3-3 with a sacrifice fly.
Crisp also jumpstarted the A’s first-inning rally. He led the game off with a double and stole third. Keuchel fielded Derek Norris’ slow roller to the left side and was too distracted by Crisp roaming off third base to make a throw to first. Jed Lowrie, who is 6 for 14 this series, drove in Crisp with a line single to left. Josh Donaldson’s double-play grounder scored Norris for the early 2-0 Oakland lead.
In the field
Josh Reddick settled in under a fly ball in the bottom of the fourth. George Springer tagged up from second. Reddick unleashed a laser of a throw to third. Springer lost. Reddick’s on-the-money throw to nail the speedy Springer and complete an inning-ending double play was the defensive highlight of the game. Just when you think a fly ball might be too deep for Reddick to have a chance to throw someone out, he erases those doubts. Impressive stuff.
Tommy Milone (0-1, 4.24) takes the mound for Oakland in Sunday’s 11:10 a.m. series finale. Collin McHugh (1-0, 0.00) goes for Houston.