HOUSTON – Jesse Chavez was coming off an encouraging start where he was pleased with how sharp his stuff was.
Things took an abrupt turn in the wrong direction Monday, as the Houston Astros teed off on the right-hander in a 7-3 A’s defeat to open a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Chavez turned in his worst start of 2014, serving up three home runs and getting tagged a season-high six runs over 5 1/3 innings.
Say what you will about the 43-63 Astros, but they know how to dial it up long distance. They entered the night with 111 homers, third most in the American League and two more than Oakland.
It started with former Athletic Chris Carter launching a 1-2 pitch 420 feet for a three-run homer in the third to erase a 2-0 Oakland lead. Then things came apart in the sixth, when Houston narrowly missed homering in four consecutive at-bats.
Castro Valley’s Jason Castro hit a two-run shot to right-center to snap a 3-3 tie. After a mound visit from pitching coach Curt Young, Chavez gave up another homer to Marc Krauss to make it back-to-back shots and end Chavez’s night.
On Dan Otero’s first batter, Jon Singleton narrowly missed his own homer, hooking a ball just outside of the right field foul pole. But the next hitter, Matt Dominguez, made up for it, mashing a tape-measure shot that cleared the left field seats, the large well behind them and landed on the railroad tracks where the Minute Maid Park train sounds off every time the Astros go deep.
It was a sound the A’s grew way too familiar with.
Starting pitching report
Chavez (8-7) struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings in his last start, which also came against Houston at the Coliseum. He said after that game he was encouraged with the command he had of his cutter, his favorite pitch. Manager Bob Melvin praised him after that outing too.
But Chavez gave up a season-high three homers Monday in a ballpark known for allowing the long ball. He also hurt himself by falling behind in counts. He walked Carter on four pitches in the xith right before allowing Castro’s homer. Then he fell behind 3-1 to Krauss before giving up his homer.
Chavez has lasted fewer than six innings in five of his past six outings.
Dominguez’s blast was just the third homer allowed by Otero in his entire career. He came in having pitched 111 1/3 innings.
At the plate
The A’s started out like they would pick up right where they left off in taking two of three from the Rangers. They took the lead in the second when Josh Donaldson led off with a double and came around to score on Derek Norris’ single up the middle. In the third, Stephen Vogt kept up his torrid pace with a homer to the second deck in right that made it 2-0.
Vogt added a ground-rule double in the fifth that set up Yoenis Cespedes’ sacrifice fly that tied the game 3-3. But there was too much ground to make up due to the Astros’ power show.
Billy Burns pinch-hit in the ninth and flied out to right in his first major league at-bat. In doing so, he became the first rookie used by the A’s this season in 105 games. That was marked the longest such season-opening streak by a major league team since the 1971 Orioles went 152 games before using a rookie.
In the field
Right fielder Josh Reddick turned in back to back highlight plays in the seventh. He made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Kike Hernandez, then followed that with a diving catch of Jose Altuve’s sinking liner.
Included in the crowd of 18,259 was A’s managing partner Lew Wolff and president Michael Crowley, who are in town for a function involving KIPP schools, a charity created by A’s principal owner John Fisher. General manager Billy Beane is also expected to be here Thursday.
Jeff Samardzija (2-1, 2.70) is familiar with Minute Maid Park from his days with the Chicago Cubs. He’s made four appearances but just one start, posting a 3.27 ERA. He’ll oppose Scott Feldman (4-8, 4.60) in Tuesday’s 5:10 p.m. contest.