As the Astros have struggled to cobble together a pitching staff in 2020, Jose Urquidy’s rehab has been a hot story. He’s had a solid return from COVID-19, and on Thursday he kept the Astros neck and neck with the rival A’s for much of the day. The game was a pitcher’s duel from the jump, with Urquidy and A’s starter Sean Manaea trading zeroes throughout the early going. In fact, neither team managed a baserunner until the bottom of the 4th, when Urquidy had to work around a couple of walks but kept his shutout intact.
The A’s recorded the game’s first hit in the bottom of the fifth, but Urquidy was again able to erase the baserunner and the game remained scoreless into the sixth. In the top of the inning, the Astros offense finally showed some life against Manaea, as Josh Reddick led off with a double and was moved to third by an Aledmys Diaz base hit. The next hitter, Martin Maldonado, brought Reddick home from third but unfortunately did so by way of a double play ball, and George Springer promptly struck out to end the inning.
In the home half, the A’s broke through against Urquidy in a major way. It looked as though he might continue to cruise, as he retired the first two hitters of the frame, but Ramon Laureano earned a four pitch walk before Matt Olson demolished a two-run home run to give the A’s the lead. The Astros went quietly in the top of the 7th, and Andre Scrubb was entrusted with the bottom of the inning. He quickly got into trouble as he walked Mark Canha on four pitches, and Canha responded by taking second on a steal. Chad Pinder then connected with a Scrubb curveball that grazed the top of the strike zone, sending it up the middle for an RBI base hit. Scrubb quickly dealt with the rest of the frame, but the A’s now held a comfortable two-run lead in a game that had been light on offense.
The Astros were unable to answer in the eighth, managing just a two out walk, and Dusty Baker sent Brandon Bielak out for the bottom. Bielak allowed a one out hit to Robbie Grossman to create a bit of a threat, but helped himself out by picking Grossman off of first to create a two out none on situation. This proved to be important, as Mark Canha followed with a double that would’ve scored a run. Bielak was then able to escape by inducing a shallow fly ball from Vimael Machin. This kept the Astros within a reasonable range heading to the ninth, where they had to face closer Liam Hendriks. Leading off the inning was Martin Maldonado, who fell behind in the count 1-2 before working it full and then being rung up on a questionable (but probably correct) strike call. George Springer then hit a lazy fly on the first pitch of his at bat, bringing Alex Bregman to the plate to try to keep things alive. Bregman made good contact on a ball into the gap, but Ramon Laureano ran it down and made a sliding catch to secure the win. The Astros had just two hits on the day and the loss moves their record to 22-23, with a division title now looking like a virtual impossibility. They’ll take the field next in their series opener with the Dodgers on Saturday night in Los Angeles.