In a game that featured all kinds of ugliness, the Houston Astros proved much uglier than the A’s on Friday night.
The result was a 12-5 Oakland victory in a contest that was 5-5 before the A’s struck for seven runs in the top of the ninth. The game eclipsed four hours and featured four errors and 21 runners left on base between the clubs.
The A’s aren’t complaining. Despite Jesse Chavez’s first subpar start of the season and some missed scoring opportunities throughout the game, the A’s won their second straight lopsided affair and took the first two of this four-game series at Minute Maid Park. But they won’t always get such charity.
It was a 5-5 game in the top of the ninth when Daric Barton stepped up with the bases loaded and no outs. With the infield drawn in, he hit a sharp grounder that got through second baseman Jose Altuve. Brandon Moss and Alberto Callaspo both scored, and when right fielder George Springer didn’t cleanly pick up the ball, Craig Gentry motored around from first to make it 8-5. Just like that, a ball that stopped in shallow right field managed to score three runs.
The floodgates opened, and a close game became a rout. Josh Donaldson would clobber his third two-run homer of the series as part of the rally, as the A’s sent 12 men to the plate in the inning. And it wouldn’t be an A’s-Astros game without some controversy. With the A’s up by seven in the bottom of the ninth, Oakland reliever Fernando Abad hit Jason Castro with a pitch, one night after Jed Lowrie appeared to be intentionally hit. Both benches were warned, and Astros manager Bo Porter wound up getting ejected.
Starting pitching report
So good had Jesse Chavez been through his first four starts, it was odd to see him face some adversity Friday. The right-hander came out after five innings, allowing eight hits and five runs (four earned). Incredibly, Chavez had been the only A’s starter on the Opening Day roster since at least 1914 to begin the season with four consecutive starts of six or more innings and one or fewer earned runs.
The Astros got to him for four runs in the fourth to erase a 5-1 deficit, though Chavez’s defense let him down on a couple of plays. Chavez hadn’t given up more than six hits in any of his previous starts.
Dan Otero, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson and Abad did solid work in relief.
At the plate
The A’s struck for four in the second inninf to command an early lead. Josh Reddick tripled deep to center to score Alberto Callaspo and Jed Lowrie brought home two more with a single to highlight the rally. The A’s added a run in the top of the fourth to make it 5-1. A throwing error by Astros starter Brad Peacock moved runners to second and third and John Jaso delivered a sacrifice fly to score Eric Sogard. But the A’s fell silent with the bats until the scoring parade began in the ninth.
In the field
The A’s just haven’t found a way to tighten things down defensively. The erratic play surfaced again during Houston’s four-run rally in the fourth. Josh Donaldson made a backhanded stop on Jose Altuve’s grounder to third but then sailed a throw over Daric Barton’s head for an error that allowed two runs to score. One batter later, Dexter Fowler hit a blooper to shallow center that fell in for a hit. No one was covering second base, and Fowler wound up with a double that should have been a single. Oakland’s 22errors are tied for most in the American League. The physical mistakes are bad enough, but the A’s can’t afford the mental lapses.
Dan Straily (1-1, 5.40) has allowed at least one homer in each of his four starts, so a key for him in Saturday’s 4:10 p.m. game will simply be keeping the Astros in the park. He’ll be opposed by Dallas Keuchel (2-1, 3.38).