The identity of the 2014 Houston Astros is one that is tough to figure out. When this lineup clicks, they really click and when they don't, they fall flat on their faces accumulating a team average of .208 thus far. Hard to believe, but .208 as a team is actually a huge jump from a week ago when it was a minuscule .187. Tonight was one of the few nights they clicked, getting home runs from Dexter Fowler and Khris Karter. Wait, sorry. I meant Chris Carter. The Athletics jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first after Coco Crisp led off the game with a double off the visitors bullpen off starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel. Crisp would come around to score on a new nemesis Jed Lowrie single to left and a Josh Donaldson double play.
After the top of the first inning, most Astro fans who were able to see the game probably thought this would be a deficit the Astros simply could not overcome with the track record the local nine have against the A's. However, the Astros responded quickly with the Dexter Fowler home run that puled the Astros to within one and Carter had one of his own in the second inning that put the Astros ahead 3-2. It would stay that way until the top of the seventh when Craig Gentry scored on Coco Crisp's sacrifice fly to left to even it up at three apiece.
Then things got interesting. Fresh off of his shiny new multi year, multimillion dollar deal, Sean Doolittle entered the game in the bottom of the eighth. Marwin Gonzalez led off the inning with a single up the middle, and Jose Altuve followed that up with a single of his own. Then in unlikely fashion, God struck the Astros bats with some kind of magical touch, and the Astros actually hit with runners in scoring position. Dexter Fowler played the role of clutch hitter for the second time this evening with a single past an outstretched Lowrie to push the score to 4-3 then Jason Castro, on Jason Castro bobble head night, singled to right to make it 5-3. George Springer and Marc Krauss added on with RBI fielders choices to ultimately put the Astros ahead 7-3.
For most Major League Baseball teams, a four run lead entering the 9th inning would be enough to be able to breath, but not with these Astros. Jerome Williams stayed in for the ninth to close it out and promptly gave up a leadoff single to Josh Reddick followed by a Craig Gentry walk. Okay, so a double play gets Williams out of the inning. Four runs is enough to win right? Well, Brandon Moss had other plans as he deposited a Williams fastball into the right field seats to pull the Athletics to within one. Okay, so maybe a four run lead with this "improved" bullpen still isn't enough. Nick Punto followed the Moss slam with a single causing the announced crowd of roughly 17,000 to get restless. A collective "here we go again" was setting in quickly. Raul Valdes entered the ballgame and struck out the two men he faced to end the threat and give the Astros a much needed victory.
The Astros and A's will square off again with a chance to split the series as Collin McHugh toes the rubber against left hander Tommy Milone at 1 o'clock on Sunday. McHugh coming off a career start against Seattle will need a similar performance to hold off these A's. Good luck to you.