With some losses, a team can point to the positives in a game and take heart in them moving forward.
There was plenty that the A’s did right Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, but it got flushed away in a 4-2 defeat to the Houston Astros that delivered an unexpected punch to the gut.
Chris Carter’s three-run moon shot off Luke Gregerson in the bottom of the eighth transformed a 2-1 A’s lead into a two-run defeat. Gregerson watched what Carter had done the night before, drilling a two-run homer off Jeff Samardzija to the opposite field.
He tried to go away with a 1-1 pitch, hoping to coax a ground ball. His sinker instead ran back low and inside, and Carter dropped his bat head on it and sent the ball into orbit.
“It started away and just ran all the way across the plate, down and in,” Gregerson said. “Not necessarily bad location for a lot of guys, just not for him.”
Teams absorb these kinds of heartbreakers over the course of a 162-game season, but in the heat of a late-August pennant race, they seem more magnified. Compounding matters, the Angels were handling the Miami Marlins in the late innings Wednesday night, putting Oakland in position to fall out of a first-place tie with Los Angeles.
Carter, a former Athletic, was the gentle giant while in Oakland’s clubhouse, a soft-spoken slugger who began scratching the surface of his potential during the 2012 season but hadn’t fully developed into the power-hitting stud he was projected to be. He’s busted out this season for 32 home runs, and his 13 homers since the All-Star break lead the majors.
Traded to the Astros in a five-player deal that sent Jed Lowrie and reliever Fernando Rodriguez to Oakland in February 2013, he’s homered five times against the A’s this season and collected 16 RBI in 14 games against them.
It was shaping up as an encouraging night for the A’s given the starting effort of Jason Hammel, who delivered seven innings of one-run ball in his best effort yet in green and gold. And that’s also why this one hurt. The A’s couldn’t have known what they’d get from Hammel, given his struggles leading up to Tuesday, just as they can’t be sure of what lefty Drew Pomeranz will give them when he takes the hill Wednesday in his first big league start in more than two months.
To bag a victory Tuesday and guarantee at least the series victory at Minute Maid Park would have been a nice situation for Bob Melvin’s gang.
It didn’t happen. Often times it doesn’t over a long season. But contending teams don’t get many mulligans this time of year. The A’s will look to rebound Wednesday, and it will help their cause if Carter is nowhere near the batter’s box come the eighth inning.