The Houston Astros needed something to buck the trend, whatever it took. They had dropped Game 1 of yet another twin bill on Tuesday afternoon in Oakland to fall 5.5 games behind the first place A’s in the AL West. In this bizarre, pandemic-shortened season, they are still in danger of not winning the division for the first time since 2016. However, the Astros took a small step towards moving things back in the right direction in the nightcap. Despite falling behind early, they used a flurry of offense mid-game and for once, a strong performance by the bullpen as they snapped a six-game slide by edging the A’s 5-4.
A pitcher who had not started a game at the major league level in nearly two years got the ball for the Astros. Chase De Jong was recalled on Monday from the team’s satellite camp in Corpus Christi after previously appearing for the team on Aug. 25 in a relief role. De Jong might be better known by Astros fans for surrendering a walk-off home run to George Springer when he made his major league debut with the Mariners in 2017. His last start came on Sept. 28, 2018 for the Minnesota Twins, coincidentally in the second game of a doubleheader.
De Jong’s beginning was impressive as he struck out three of the first seven hitters he faced while allowing just one hit over the first two frames. However, a big inning has been a major Achilles heel for Houston on this road trip and Tuesday night was no different. Oakland plated four runs in the third, highlighted by a three-run homer off the bat of Matt Olson. The blast was the 100th of Olson’s career, marking the second foe to record a milestone long ball against the Astros in 72 hours after Mike Trout hit his 300th on Saturday. Houston pitching has now allowed three runs or more in an inning in six of seven games on the trip.
Mike Minor had struggled to find his footing between Texas and Oakland this season, entering Tuesday with a 5.94 ERA in eight appearances. He blanked the Astros on one hit through three innings before running into trouble in the fourth. Myles Straw and Michael Brantley led off with singles and Kyle Tucker walked to load the bases with one out. Carlos Correa then took a slider off the foot to force in Straw for Houston’s first run, leading A’s manager Bob Melvin to pull Minor in favor of Yusmeiro Petit. Aledmys Diaz lined out but then Abraham Toro and Dustin Garneau each drew a free pass with the bases full - making it a one-run ballgame all of a sudden. On the first pitch, Springer beat out an infield hit to tie it up. Straw flied out to tie the game but the Astros offense did a great job of working counts and forcing the starter out of the game.
Brooks Raley was stellar out of the bullpen, retiring all five batters he faced. Enoli Paredes worked into - and then out of - a bases loaded jam in the sixth by inducing Tommy La Stella to fly out to left.
The Astros were able to push across the eventual game-winner in the top of the seventh. Springer reached on an error, Straw picked up an infield single and Brantley walked to put a runner on every base. Gurriel came through with a sacrifice fly to give Houston their first lead of the day, although they were unable to push across any insurance.
A one-run lead has been very tenuous in recent days, but Ryan Pressly was able to pitch around a one-out single for his seventh save of the season and put the Astros in the win column for the Golden State trip.
The two teams will meet up again at 8:10 p.m. CT Wednesday for the fourth contest in this five-game series. Luis Garcia will make his first major league start after having never thrown a pitch above the High-A level until Sept. 4, when he allowed just one hit over 4.1 frames of one-run ball against the Angels. Oakland will counter with fellow rookie Jesus Luzardo (2-2, 4.23).
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