What began as a pitchers’ duel ended in a slugfest, and unfortunately another defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros’ bullpen.
Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa both had multi-homer games and the Astros hit five longballs as a team, but the Oakland Athletics went deep five times as well to emerge victorious Thursday night, 7-6.
Both starting pitchers cruised through the first three innings. Mike Fiers and Aaron Sanchez needed only a combined 58 pitches to get the first 18 outs of the ballgame.
But that was merely the calm before the storm, one that would end calamitously for the Astros.
Brantley was the first batter to work a full count all night when he singled with two outs in the fourth. Alex Bregman followed with a laser over the leftfield wall left to put the Astros up 2-0.
Breg #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/GfN4VdRTWp— Houston Astros (@astros) August 16, 2019
Bregman entered the night hitting .417 (15-for-36) with two homers and 11 RBI in 10 games since being moved to the cleanup spot. His shot, No. 29 of the season, felt like an injection of exuberance the Astros sorely needed after being unable to vault ahead of the Chicago White Sox, despite numerous chances, a day earlier.
Much like the day before, however, the Astros’ good vibes were soon to be disrupted.
Robbie Grossman led off the A’s half of fourth with a double off the base of the wall in centerfield. Matt Chapman hit a chopper right back to Sanchez, who unwisely attempted to nab a retreating Grossman at second. The failure placed runners at first and second with no outs and Matt Olson took advantage, lofting a three-run homer, his 24th longball of season, that narrowly snuck over the fence in rightfield.
Two outs later, Corban Joseph launched the first home run of his Major-League career to put Oakland ahead 4-2.
The Astros offense, which led the Majors with 8.6 runs/game in August entering Thursday, wasn’t willing to go quietly.
Carlos Correa started the fifth inning with a solo homer, a prodigious 437-foot blast to the batter’s eye in centerfield.
Correa, center cut. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/PQTfINdNDS— Houston Astros (@astros) August 16, 2019
The bomb was Correa’s 18th of the season and brought the Astros within a run.
Yuli Gurriel followed with a base hit up the middle and four of the last five Astros had reached base, with three of them scoring. The bottom of the order couldn’t get anything going all night, though, and that was all the Astros could muster in the fifth.
Brantley tied the game in the top of the sixth with his 17th homer of the season, a solo shot over the big wall in rightfield.
Smooth. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/QamjxviHyR— Houston Astros (@astros) August 16, 2019
Sanchez, who was 2-0 with 0.82 ERA in two starts since being traded to Houston, allowed the A’s to quickly regain a two-run lead on back-to-back solo home runs by Chapman and Olson. A four-pitch walk to Stephen Piscotty and single by Joseph past a drawn-in Bregman ended the rough night for Sanchez.
Sanchez pitched 5 1⁄3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and a tied a career-worst by surrendering four home runs.
Hector Rondon came on in relief and got Chad Pinder to meekly line out to Altuve, who flipped to Correa for a nifty double play.
Correa continued his mighty onslaught in the top of seventh, when he slugged his second longball of the night to pull the Astros back within a run, 6-5.
#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/Ev2GPgVKtP— Houston Astros (@astros) August 16, 2019
The homer was No. 100 of Correa’s career and his fourth in seven games of the current road trip.
Correa’s home run culminated the outing for Fiers, who threw six innings and allowed five runs on six hits, four of which were homers. Neither Fiers nor Sanchez had allowed more than two homers in a start this season and Fiers had surrendered only three homers in his previous 10 starts.
Though the Astros were able to rough up their former teammate—who came into tonight with a 3-0 record and American League-best 1.79 ERA since the All-Star Break and was unbeaten in 17 starts, dating back to his no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds—Houston still trailed at the time of Fiers’ departure.
Yusmeiro Petit, who leads the AL in appearances (61), entered in relief of Fiers and was pitching for the third straight day. Following a walk to Yuli Gurriel, Petit retired three straight Astros to end the seventh.
Rondon set down the A’s in order in his second inning of work. He did an admirable job in relief, recording five outs without allowing a baserunner.
With one away in the eighth inning, Brantley connected off A’s reliever Blake Treinen for his second homer in two at-bats to tie the game, 6-6.
Back 2 Back ABs with a !#TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/uzHtIhMI67— Houston Astros (@astros) August 16, 2019
The home run was the Astros’ fifth of the game on just seven hits total.
But then the inevitable calamity reached its apex.
Chapman smacked his second homer of the night, and 29th of the season, in the bottom half of the eighth off Chris Devenski to give the A’s the lead right back. Devenski (2-2, 4.42) ended up striking out the side, but the damage had already been inflicted.
Somehow, the Astros had scored in five consecutive innings yet trailed at the end of four of them. The clubs combined for 10 home runs—most in the history of Oakland Coliseum—over the course of five innings, and two-thirds of the game’s 15 hits went over the wall.
Liam Hendriks recorded three straight outs in the ninth to collect his 14th save in 19 chances for Oakland. Jake Diekman (1-6, 4.86) earned his first win of the season.
The triumph was only the A’s third victory in 12 tries against Houston this season.
The loss dropped the Astros to 9-4 in August, with all four losses coming on the current 10-game road trip.
Brantley ranks second in the AL with 48 multi-hit games. The loss was Devenski’s second in as many outings. Following a nine-game hitting streak, Yordan Alvarez has one hit in his last 15 at-bats.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros look to end a three-game losing streak Friday when Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.82) takes on Tanner Roark (1-1, 2.31 with Oakland; 7-8, 4.06 overall). Verlander had one of his worst starts of the season in his last outing, surrendering four runs on nine hits in five innings of a no-decision against the Baltimore Orioles. He did strike out 11 batters and still leads the AL in several categories, including ERA, WHIP (0.85), K:BB ratio (6.4), and IP (162 2/3). Verlander is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and has struck out 19 batters in 14 innings across two starts against Oakland this season. Roark took the loss against the Chicago White Sox in his second start since coming over to the A’s from Cincinnati. Roark allowed three runs on six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 6 2⁄3 innings Saturday against the White Sox. He has made two starts against the Astros in his career, going 2-0 with 11 strikeouts in 10 2⁄3 innings. First pitch Friday is slated for 9:07 CT.