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Athletics 3, Astros 1: Sonny Gray Utterly Dominates Astros Hitters

Dallas Keuchel struggled in the first three innings...Sonny Gray struggled in none of them.

Jose Altuve went one for four with a single in the loss, but made a throwing error early in the game.
Jose Altuve went one for four with a single in the loss, but made a throwing error early in the game.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

What Happened

The first third of the game was an exercise in slapstick vaudeville comedy for the Astros tonight.

You know, comedy.  Like Dante's Divine Comedy.

In other words, not a comedy at all.

Three separate batters for the Athletics swatted grounders that left the bat as cans of corn, deflected off Astros ace starter Dallas Keuchel, and ended up as infield singles.  Jose Altuve made a throwing error.  Dallas Keuchel gave up only his ninth home run to opposing hitters this season, and also hit his first batter of the season.

It was just that kind of night for the Astros.

To make matters worse, Dallas Keuchel was uncharacteristically not sharp at all in the first three innings of the game, with a stretch of three consecutive at bats in the first inning that went to three ball counts.  All told, Dallas went 7.2 innings, allowed ten hits (three of which were the aforementioned deflected cans of corn), walked two, and struck out just three.  His record on the season dropped to 13-6.  Keuchel threw 112 pitches to get through his seven and two-thirds innings.

Conversely, Sonny Gray pitched a dominant complete game, allowing only five total hits (one of which was a long, loud home run which leaped off Luis Valbuena's bat at 108 miles per hour for his 21st home run of the season) and no walks while striking out five Astros.

Video courtesy of the video archive

In what is (sadly) an uncommon and noteworthy feat in baseball in this day and age, there was only ONE pitch thrown in this entire game by anyone other than Dallas Keuchel and Sonny Gray.  When Asher Wojciechowski entered the game with two outs in the seventh to relieve Dallas Keuchel he threw exactly one pitch, retiring Mark Canha on a first pitch fly out to Preston Tucker in left field.

Shocking no one, Dallas Keuchel retired 11 hitters via ground ball outs in the game and induced two double plays along the way.  Surprising some, Sonny Gray did not retire a hitter via a ground out until the fourth inning before running off a string of them and ending with 7 ground ball outs on the night.  As was widely commented on throughout social media and on the Roots Sports broadcast, the Astros hit many balls solidly tonight - but most were right at defenders, and the others all hovered in the air around the black hole that is Billy Burns and Sam Fuld in center field and right field for the Athletics.  Before falling into their gloves, that is.

It was a very frustrating game to watch for Astros fans, but after watching Sonny Gray lower his ERA to a gaudy 2.06 for the season, there was some solace in the feeling amongst fans that this was more an example of getting beaten by a superior pitcher than just seeing the bats inexplicably disappear, as had seemed to be the case often in road games recently.

The Astros continue their four game series in Oakland tomorrow, as Collin McHugh will face off against Jesse Chavez.  First pitch will be at 3:05 PM CT, don't miss it!

EDIT FOR BREAKING NEWS: it is being rumored that the Arizona Diamondbacks have traded left handed reliever Oliver Perez to the Astros.  The price tag is currently unknown and the Astros have yet to publicly confirm, but if true, Perez could bring another solid left handed specialist.  Versus left handed batters this year, he has posted outstanding numbers which include a .183 opposing batting average, a .234 OBP against, a .267 slugging percentage against and a .226 wOBA to opposing left handed hitters.  Overall Perez, who has been pitching in the major leagues since 2002 as a highly touted young arm and is still only 33 years old, has posted a 3.10 ERA with a 2.99 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, 7.1 HR/FB%, 0.62 HR/9, and a very solid 11.48 K/9 rate.  Check back soon for more details in a separate article as soon as the trade and its terms are confirmed and released.

Second edit: Per Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, the Astros sent Junior Garcia (Tri-City Valley Cats LHP) to the Diamondbacks in the trade.