A quirk in the calendar this year meant Labor Day fell on the latest date possible for the second time in five years. This was a leap year and the first Monday in September didn’t fall until the 7th, as had been the case in 2015. In a pure coincidence, the Houston Astros visited Oakland Coliseum to take on the A’s on Sept. 7 in both 2015 and 2020. And neither time was kind to them, as Monday’s 6-0 loss marked the first time the Astros fell on Labor Day since 2015, which was a 10-9 setback in Oakland. Houston has now dropped the first five contests of their 11-game road trip through California and are 4.5 games behind the A’s in the AL West.
The offense could not come up with a clutch hit on Monday night, leaving two runners on in the first, fourth and sixth frames. Astros starter Cristian Javier was very solid as he allowed just two runs in five innings. But a four-batter stretch in the second proved to be his undoing. Robbie Grossman led off with a single and scored on a one-out double off the right-center field wall by Tony Kemp. If you notice a pattern there, yes, they are both former Astros. Dustin Garneau then nabbed Tony Kemp trying to steal third, a play that loomed large because Sean Murphy powered a 2-2 pitch for a home run to straightaway center field. It would have been a two-run blast, but Garneau’s throw meant Oakland only led by a pair.
In each occurrence of the Astros leaving a pair of runners on base in an inning against A’s starter Chris Bassitt, they came up with two singles every time. George Springer recorded an infield hit on the first pitch of the game but he and Yuli Gurriel were left stranded. Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz were left after back to back singles with two outs in the fourth, then Michael Brantley and Correa were forced to retreat to the dugout when Bassitt fanned Diaz to end the sixth.
Andre Scrubb was tagged with an insurance run in the seventh. Murphy led off with a walk, moved to third on a single by Tommy La Stella and scored on Ramon Laureano’s sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Another leadoff walk led to trouble the next frame, this time to completely put the game away. Cy Sneed issued a free pass to Matt Olson, who scored on a base hit by Stephen Piscotty. Chad Pinder followed with a double and Murphy put the game out of slam range with a two-run single to right for the final margin of 6-0.
In an unreal development, A’s reliever Lou Trivino retired the side in order on THREE PITCHES to end the game. Tucker, Correa and Diaz all flied out to Laureano in center. Jayson Stark will need to research the last time this ridiculous feat happened.
Javier allowed just two runs on three hits in five innings and, except for Sneed, the bullpen fared much better tonight than in Anaheim, but the lineup could not produce when it mattered most. Correa was the only Astro to record multiple hits as he finished 2-for-4.
Houston will play their fourth doubleheader in 15 days tomorrow in Oakland, with first pitch of game one scheduled for 5:10 p.m. CT and the Astros serving as the home team. In that contest, ace Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.91) will look to help snap Houston’s losing streak against A’s opening day starter Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06). The nightcap will get underway approximately 30 to 45 minutes after the first contest concludes, pitting an Astros hurler to be determined against lefty Mike Minor (0-5, 5.94), a recent acquisition for Oakland.
Box score and videos HERE.