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A’s Artillery Bombards Astros. Astros Guns Silent. Oakland Takes Opener 8-1

Sean Manaea Shuts down Stros, A’s bats Unload

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What began as a classic pitcher’s duel between last Saturday’s no-hit artist, Sean Manaea, and former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, became an A’s blowout, as Oakland exploded for 8 runs, all after the fifth inning.

In a pattern similar to the Astros last game against the Angels, the Astros starter began the game with four perfect innings. Keuchel started very sharp, but the A’s took advantage of every mistake, starting in the fifth inning with a Matt Chapman solo home run to break up the no-hitter.

Another Keuchel mistake in the sixth resulted in a 2 run Chad Pinder homer. In the seventh a Matt Olson RBI single and a Mark Canha 2 run homer, the A’s’ third against Keuchel, gave the A’s 6 runs.

Meanwhile the Astros broke up Sean Manaea’s string of 12 hitless/scoreless innings with a hustle run by George Springer in the fourth. On a routine grounder to shortstop, George Springer, on an errant throw, barely slid around the tag by first baseman Matt Olson and was called safe on a play ruled an error. Springer then advanced to second on a rare tag-up from first on a fly out by Jose Altuve. Carlos Correa then scored Springer with a single to right field. This would be the only scoring for the Astros who managed only 5 hits.

In the eighth inning the A’s scored two more runs against reliever Joe Smith, whose ERA for the young season is 9.72. Colin McHugh pitched a scoreless ninth in mop-up for the Stros, striking out the side looking, getting 12 strikes in 13 pitches.

Dallas Keuchel, after starting out strong, ended up allowing 6 earned runs in seven innings, raising his season ERA to 4.00, and giving him his fourth loss of the year to go with 1 win. The Astros are now 16-9 for the season and tied for first with the Angels as of this writing. They are 2 games ahead of Seattle and 2.5 games ahead of the surprising Oakland A’s.

The A’s and Astros play the second game of their series tomorrow at Minute Maid, 6:10 PM CST

Box Score here

Question: I know this is not going to happen any time soon, but if present trends continue the issue will be raised. I am going to make a case and let you argue about it

Dallas Keuchel after six games has been a picture of mediocrity, with an ERA of 4.00, a WHIP of 1.31 and has surrendered 6 home runs in 36 innings. He seems to have lost a mile or two on his 2015 fastball and is missing spots often enough to be vulnerable to the long ball.

One can even argue that his style of pitching, pinpoint control in the bottom of the zone, is obsolete, as more and more hitters gear their swings to the bottom of the strike zone to improve their trajectory.

On the other hand Colin McHugh, yes, in a decidedly smaller sample, has a 0.84 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 10.2 innings and a WHIP of 0.66. He was once the second best pitcher on the staff behind Keuchel. But has he surpassed Dallas? Last year he added a slider to his killer curve, and now he has a killer slider and a killer curve, and in the one inning stints he has been getting, looks to be baffling hitters.

So the Question: In what is shaping up to look like a very competitive Western Division, under what conditions other than injury should Colin McHugh replace Dallas Keuchel or, if you prefer, Lance McCullers? Is performance the only criterion? What do you think?