The Oakland A’s are not a bad team. They’re really not. Until the Astros came to town they were even above .500. They’ve got a decent pitching staff ranked right in the middle of MLB in ERA, right about 4 runs a game. They’re right at ML average in hitting too, with an even 100 WRC+. They’re a real major league team.
In three games against the Astros they never seriously contended. Stros bats hit them early, hit them often. Like some chump facing prime Mike Tyson, the A’s looked stunned and wobbly from the outset, and never recovered. These games were over in the early rounds.
Today it was a one two punch in the first, towards the end of the round, with two outs. Carlos Correa singled, Yuli Gurriel doubled him home, and then Josh Reddick plated Gurriel with a another single.
I told my wife: “Verlander’s pitching, this game is over.”
The Astros barrage continued in the third round, with an Altuve single, a wild pitch, and a Correa RBI single.
In the fourth round Brian McCann delivered the knock out punch, a 2 run homer deep to right field. If this were boxing, any humane referee would have called a technical knockout.
But the A’s were allowed to keep staggering out there and allowed the Astros to score 2 more in the sixth. When a fighter is battered and tired he lets his defenses down. The Astros took full advantage. Brian McCann got on first when poor third baseman Matt Chapman lost a routine pop up in the sun, the ball landing on his shoulder. The next hitter, Tony Kemp, hit a playable ball to Chapman again, who bobbled it, giving Kemp his second hit. With runners on first and second Chapman got another grounder. This time he fielded cleanly, touched third for the easy force and threw to first for the double play.
Whoops. Overthrow. Here comes ever alert and swift Tony Kemp to the plate, who started this play at first, sliding safe at home, just beating the throw from the first baseman.
Clearly a team battered and punch drunk the A’s.
Altuve would plate the seventh and final Astros run with an RBI double.
The A’s did manage to land a few wild punches on starter Justin Verlander. Kris Davis had a solo home run in the second inning. When you go back to last night’s game it was his third home run in three consecutive at bats.
In the seventh the A’s made the game look closer than it was when Matt Olson hit a two run homer, scoring Davis, who got on when Yuli Gurriel, like Chapman on two occasions earlier, could not find a pop up in the sun.
The Astros scored 26 runs in this series, 21 of them in the fifth inning or sooner. Quite a reversal of their early season tendency to score in the later innings. The A’s managed only 11 runs for the series.
And it was a very balanced attack, with great production from the back of the lineup. In three games Josh Reddick had five hits and Yuli Gurriel had 6. In two games each Tony Kemp and Marwin Gonzalez had four hits including a Marwin home run. Jake Marisnick added a double and a home run* in his only game and, of course, McCann had the knockout home run that sealed game three.
Evan Gattis had 5 hits, 3 home runs and 10 RBI.
Of course the top of the order did their usual damage as well, especially Carlos Correa, with five hits, a home run and a triple
The Astros had a combined 39 hits for the series.
Justin Verlander (9-2) is the first Astros pitcher to get to the nine win mark, but his ERA crept up to 1.61 with the two home runs surrendered. This puts him in 2nd in MLB in ERA behind Jacob deGrom.
Frankie Montas (3-1) was the loser.
This victory puts the Astros in a tie with Seattle for first place in the AL West, pending the outcome of the Mariners’ game with Boston tonight. It was the Astros’ eighth straight win.
Tomorrow the Astros face the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Charlie Morton (7-1, 2.82 ERA), hopes to bounce back from two rough starts against Jakob Junis, (5-6, 4.05 ERA).
Game time 7:15 CDT.
Box Score and videos here.
*Marisnick homer against punch drunk position player on the mound.