By Charlie O. Mallonee
Oakland – There is no such thing as a pretty loss. By their very nature, all losses all are ugly. But, some losses are “uglier” than others.
The Oakland Athletics had one of those very ugly losses on Sunday afternoon as they dropped a one-run game to the Houston Astros 2-1 in the series finale. The A’s did take the series two games to one.
It looked like it was going to be a high scoring, power game the way things began. All-star second baseman Jose Altuve took a one-one curveball over the left-center field fence for a home run to lead off the game for the Astros. Since the ball carries very well in the Coliseum during the day, everyone settled in for a “slug fest” that never happened. Instead, a pitching duel broke out in Oakland.
When the smoked cleared, the day belonged to the Houston Astros.
On the hill
LHP Rich Hill (3-3, 2.53) started the game for Oakland. After giving up the home run to Altuve, he settled down and got himself out of the first inning.
Hill set the side down in order in the second inning but struggled with the Astros in the third.
Houston managed to load the bases and Colby Rasmus hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field that allowed catcher Jason Castro to score from third. The Astros took a 2-0 lead and their scoring was over for the day.
Hill pitched 6.0 innings giving up just two hits (one home run) and allowing just two runs (both earned). He walked four and struck out four batters. Hill threw 106 pitches (61 strikes). It was the type of performance that would result in a win on many days.
The A’s bullpen did their job on Sunday. Liam Hendriks, Fernando Rodriquez and Mark Rzepczynski worked a combined 3.0 innings giving up no hits and no runs.
Hill was charged with the loss.
Veteran RHP Doug Fister (2-3, 4.60) started the game for the Astros. Fister was not overpowering or mystifying. He simply pitched to contact and the A’s kept hitting ground balls right at the defense.
Fister did allow the A’s to get seven hits but he kept them from being able to string them together until the seventh inning when Oakland would score its only run.
Fister pitched 6.2 innings giving up seven hits and one run (earned). He walked just one batter and struck out five. He threw 95 pitches (66 strikes).
The Houston relief corps worked 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
In the batter’s box
In the batter’s box is where it was ugly for the A’s today. They were facing a starting pitcher who came into the game with a 5.56 ERA. As a team, you have to take advantage of that situation. An ERA that high screams of a pitcher who is struggling. As Don Henley says, “You kick ‘em when they’re down.”
Oakland had a pitching performance from their starter and relievers that was worthy of a victory. A win was not achieved for one simple reason – men left on base.
The A’s left eight men on base in the game. Even more disturbing was the fact they were just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That is an ugly stat that make this an ugly loss.
The Astros struggled as well. They picked up seven base-on-balls in game and were unable to really capitalize on them. Houston left seven men on base and was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
On offense in general, this was a very strange game.
Just a note on defense. The Astros employed the defensive shift more than any team I have seen use it before in a game. They seem willing to play the percentage game and take their lumps if the opposition is able to beat them at their game.
The A’s were able to beat the shift several on several occasions but the Astros were successful using the defensive ploy. We will do some statistical follow up to see how successful the defensive scheme is over the long haul.
The Athletics open a 3-game home series with the Seattle Mariners on Monday night. Kendall Graveman will take the mound for the A’s facing the Mariners Nathan Karns.
The Astros return home to begin a 3-game series with the Twins.