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Game Recap: A’s Slither Past Stros. Stay Tight in AL West Race. Win 4-3.

Untimely hitting, base running error, closer malfunction, cost Astros.

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

The Astros had their Texas boots squarely on top of the snake’s neck tonight, and they let the crafty critter slither away.

It was a tough, hard fought affair between two of baseball’s best teams, both struggling for supremacy of their common division, and neither was giving in. With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the Astros’ George Springer led off against one of a number of A’s ace relievers, Jeurys Familia, with a single. Alex Bregman moved him to second with another single up the middle.

We know you meant well George, and aggressive play is what makes you great. And you made two great aggressive catches in center field tonight. But what made you think you had a chance on that grounder to advance to third against the already notorious throwing arm of Ramon Laureano.

This is what Laureano did two weeks ago.

Springer was out at third by a mile.

Still, hope remained. Bregman was on second with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa coming up to bring him in and win the game.

Altuve; Strikeout.

Correa: Strikeout.

The snake slithers away.

In the top of the ninth the new “closer” (anyone with that title who dons an Astros uniform should just drop the first letter from the designation) walked his second batter, that blasted Laureano again, who would score on a Nick Martini double.

In the bottom of the ninth the Astros would go quietly into the night. No heroics this evening.

The Astros struggled to produce much offense at all tonight, getting only 6 hits, and only 1 out of 7 with runners in scoring position. The one bright spot was a two run double by Alex Bregman in the fifth to tie the score. Here it is

Before the ninth inning all the A’s runs came on a Matt Olson home run in the third inning off starter Charlie Morton. Morton struggled, allowing three runs on three hits and four walks in 4.2 innings pitched. However the games loser, (no c) was Osuna.

I’m not blaming this one on the pen. A few days ago I said remember the run of perfect innings next time the bullpen allows a run. Before tonight’s Osuna loss, the bullpen had a string of about 14 innings without allowing a run.

Although A’s starter Edwin Jackson was bombed in his last outing against the Texas Rangers, nonetheless since July 30th he has had a 1.88 ERA. Still, your chances of winning are low with only 3 runs scored.

If the Astros had won tonight’s game they would have had a 3.5 game lead over the A’s, with a chance to make that 4.5 tomorrow. Instead the snake has slithered back to within 1.5 games.

And a dangerous snake it is.

Here are a few sobering statistics lest anyone is too overconfident about how good the A’s are.

Since the All Star break the A’s lead the majors in hitting, with a 124 wRC+. The Astros are 10th, with a 106.

Since the All Star break the A’s lead the league in ERA at 3.17. The Astros staff is 11th at 3.67. Their starters are beating the Stros, 3.32 to 3.63. Their bullpen has been the best in the majors since the All Star break, beating Houston 2.93 to 3.75.

So this was indeed a game the Astros needed, for besides being good, the A’s have also been lucky, going 27-10 for the season in one run games, the best in MLB.

Tomorrow is the rubber match of the series with the A’s’ Trevor Cahill facing Dallas Keuchel.

Early game time is 1:10 CDT.

Box score and videos here.