Kuip & Fosse: 'You expect to win a game when you have the lead going into the 9th'
Grant Balfour and Derek Norris made ninth-inning throwing errors that helped the Astros score three times. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Jarrod Parker's final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 93 P, ND. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Grant Balfour blew his first save in nearly 15 months, the A's defense let them down, and Oakland lost to Houston for the first time in 11 games this season.
Balfour gave up a game-tying, two-run, full-count home run to Matt Dominguez in the ninth inning, ending his streak of 44 straight saves. It was the All-Star's first blown save in 27 chances this season, his first since April 29, 2012 in Baltimore.
The ninth inning began with the A's leading, 4-2, when Justin Maxwell singled off Balfour, and Balfour threw the ball away and allowed Maxwell to move to second. One batter later, Dominguez went deep to left-center for his 12th homer of the season.
Balfour then gave up a one-out double to rookie Jonathan Villar, in his second big league game, before Jose Altuve walked. And with Jason Castro at the plate, Balfour's slider in the dirt bounced away from catcher Derek Norris. Altuve took off for second and Villar stayed at second. Norris had Altuve picked off first, but threw the ball away. Villar raced around and his head-first slide beat the throw from Brandon Moss as the Astros celebrated the improbable walk-off win.
The A's (58-42) remain three games ahead of Texas, which lost to the New York Yankees, in the American League West.
Starting pitching report
Pitching for the first time since July 12, Parker seemed a tad rusty early, giving up three hits in the first inning. But he only allowed one run. The right-hander seemed to tweak his left side in the seventh inning but stayed in and finished the inning. He gave up two runs, one earned, even as the unearned run came on his throwing error (described below), and five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Parker threw 93 pitches, 60 strikes. It was the 10th straight start he allowed five hits or less, the 12th time in 13 outings.
Sean Doolittle blew away the Astros with a 1-2-3 eighth inning before closer Grant Balfour suffered the indignity of losing to Houston.
At the plate
Josh Donaldson led the offensive attack with three hits, including a double, and Coco Crisp had a pair of singles. The big blast, of course, was Brandon Moss' two-out, two-run upper deck home run to right field in eighth inning. It was Moss' team-leading 17th homer and came on a 2-2, 95-mph fastball from Jose Cisnero. Yoenis Cespedes also returned, albeit in a pinch-hitting role, from his sore left wrist. And in his first at-bat of the second half, and first since he won the Home Run Derby eight days prior, Cespedes grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. But in his second at-bat, he doubled in the right-center gap when J.D. Martinez and Justin Maxwell collided.
In the field
Jarrod Parker was his own worst enemy in the fifth inning, when he rushed his throw to first base on Brandon Barnes' comebacker and missed first baseman Brandon Moss by a good five yards. The ball bounded about and Barnes scurried into second base, despite being out by a good two steps if Parker took his time. Barnes moved to third on Jonathan Villar's sacrifice bunt and then scored the tying run, 2-2, on Jose Altuve's sacrifice fly to center.
The Astros announced a crowd of 32,249 at Enron Field, er, Minute Maid Park.
Tweet o' da game
Agree. Sogard is the new Dick Green -- @zukeferd, on my assertion that Eric Sogard is an unsung hero for the A's.
A.J. Griffin (8-7, 3.82 ERA) is coming off a 4-1 loss at the Los Angeles Angels in the first post-All Star break game on Friday. The right-hander has surrendered 21 home run this season, tied for fifth-most in the American League, and 16 of the homers have come on the road. Griffin has faced the Astros twice this season, going 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA. Houston trade bait right-hander Bud Norris (6-9, 3.91) starts for the Astros. He is 0-2 with an 11.37 ERA in two career starts against the A's.