HOUSTON – Distributing the offense evenly across nine innings is apparently overrated as far as the A’s are concerned.
Trailing by three runs Tuesday against the Astros, they broke out for six runs and batted around in the top of the ninth and stunned Houston 7-4 at Minute Maid Park.
Oakland scored three times off Astros closer Chad Qualls – a pitcher they also rallied against in the ninth in an April 19 win at the Coliseum. They didn’t stop there, sending 11 men to the plate and scoring six times on six hits.
It was a stunning turnarond after the A’s scratched out just five hits and a run over the first eight innings. Making it all the sweeter for Oakland, at the same time they were rallying, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Angels in extra innings on a walkoff homer by none other than Manny Machado.
Faced with the prospect of their division lead shrinking to a half-game, the A’s instead walked off the field leading by 2 ½ over the Angels.
Starting pitching report
Even Jeff Samardzija, who has gobbled up innings since coming over from the Cubs, couldn’t right the ship for Oakland. He gave up four runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. A key sequence transpired in the bottom of the fifth with the score 1-1.
With one out, Robbie Grossman stole second on a close play that A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged. The call stood and Grossman remained safe and in scoring position. Samardzija wait through a 3 minute, 25 second delay while umpires reviewed the play. On his first pitch after, No. 9 hitter Kike Hernandez launched a go-ahead triple off the wall in left-center. On Samardzija’s very next pitch, Jose Altuve lined a run-scoring single into left and it was 3-1.
The Astros tacked one more run on Samardzija, and again it was Hernandez doing the damage. Jon Singleton worked a full-count walk – Samardzija didn’t appear happy with the strike zone – and Singelton eventually scored on Hernandez’s double to left.
Samardzija struck out seven and walked two in 104 pitches.
Sean Doolittle closed it out in the ninth for his 16th save.
At the plate
What was shaping up as a three-run defeat for the A’s wound up being a three-run victory.
They did it piece by piece in the ninth. Pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo delivered a two-run single off Qualls to make it 4-3. Then Yoenis Cespedes blooped an RBI double ot right to score John Jaso and tie it. Brandon Moss followed with a go-ahed single to right through the shift and the march was on. That snapped an 0 for 14 skid for Moss.
In the field
It was an errorless ballgame.
The announced turnout was 16,940.
The A’s send Jason Hammel (0-3, 7.11) to the mound for Wednesday’s 11:10 a.m. series finale. He’s just the second Oakland pitcher in the last 16 years to lose his first three games with the team (Ryan Glynn lost his first four in 2005). Dallas Keuchel (9-7, 3.11) takes the mound for the Astros.