OAKLAND – After getting knocked around by the New York Mets in his last start, Jeff Samardzija bounced back in a big way.
The right-hander went eight innings and tied his season high with 10 strikeouts as the A’s beat the Houston Astros 8-2 Monday night at Minute Maid Park. In short, he showed the form that made him one of the top starters on the trade market before the A’s snatched him up from the Chicago Cubs in early July.
It appeared the A’s would have to nail down a close one to get Samardzija (4-3) a well-deserved victory. But they took advantage of four walks from Astros reliever Tony Sipp in the top of the ninth and struck for five runs to turn a 3-2 advantage into 8-2.
After taking two of three from the Angels over the weekend, the A’s want to generate a little momentum heading into a four-game rematch with Los Angeles that begins Thursday. They took care of business in the opener at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros took two of three from Oakland last month.
Starting pitching report
Nothing fancy about Samardzija’s game plan. He went after the Astros with a fastball that was popping at 96 miles per hour as late as the eighth inning.
He cruised until Chris Carter went the opposite way for a two-run homer that cut Oakland’s lead to one in the eighth. Carter, the former Athletic, Has four homers and 13 RBI in 13 games this season against his former team.
Samardzija scattered six hits and walked just one. He entered the night with a 4.07 ERA in nine starts since arriving to the A’s, not the kind of dominance that might have been expected. He was in complete control on Monday, however, blowing his fastball by the Astros but also throwing his entire arsenal effectively.
The stage was set for a dramatic bottom of the ninth as the A’s entered the inning leading by just a run. With closer Sean Doolittle being placed on the disabled list, Eric O’Flaherty was warming up for the save opportunity. Before the game, manager Bob Melvin was playing it close to the vest on who his fill-in closer would be. But the point became moot when the A’s busted out in the top of the ninth. O’Flaherty took the mound anyway and closed out the game without incident.
At the plate
It was a question mark whether Josh Donaldson would even be in Monday’s lineup after he required an MRI on his left knee Sunday. Donaldson felt good enough to play, and he got the A’s on the board with a run-scoring double in the third that scored Alberto Callaspo.
A batter before, Callaspo did well to get to second base on his own comebacker in which Eric Sogard got caught in a rundown between second and third.
Before Donaldson’s double, he was in a 3-for-28 rut with no extra-base hits and no RBI over his previous eight games.
He wasn’t finished though. In the ninth, he chopped a two-run double down the left field line that highlighted the A’s five-run ninth. The inning began with Sipp walking four straight Athletics, including Coco Crisp with the bases loaded to force in a run.
In the fourth, Brandon Moss blooped a single with one out. Then Josh Reddick, the No. 7 hitter, turned on an 0-1 cutter from Scott Feldman (7-10) and hit a two-run homer to right to make it 3-0. It continued a trend of run production the A’s have gotten from the bottom third of the order since the start of the Angels series, and that’s a positive development. But getting their middle-of-the-order bats cranking is more critical, so the A’s would welcome Donaldson showing signs of his first-half form.
In the field
Reddick committed an error in the ninth that wound up being insignificant.
Coming off a 10-day layoff after getting his start skipped, Jason Hammel (1-5, 6.75) will take the mound looking to rebound from his last start in Atlanta, when he got rocked for three home runs. He’ll oppose Dallas Keuchel (10-9, 3.12) in a pitching rematch from July 30, when Keuchel threw a four-hitter against the A’s in an 8-1 Astros win.