Oakland A’s Friday game wrap: Astros Take Advantage of Sloppy A’s in 7-2 Win

April 14, 2017

MLB, Oakland Athletics

Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman, right, and Carlos Correa (1) celebrate after scoring against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, April 14, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Matthew Harrington

OAKLAND, Calif. – In the battle of rebounding ace versus emerging rotation leader Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros scored the first victory, beating Kendall Graveman’s Oakland A’s 7-2 Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum. Keuchel (2-0, 0.86 ERA) pitched seven innings, giving up just four hits while striking out seven.

“He keeps the ball down,” said A’s Manager Bob Melvin. “When you feel like you get a decent swing on him the ball is down at the knees with decent movement and you’re beating the ball into the ground.”

Khris Davis hit his 5th home run of the season and Trevor Plouffe added his first despite a rough night in the field and at the plate for the A’s (5-6), but Nori Aoki of the Astros answered with a homer of his own off Graveman as part of a two RBI night. Oakland’s bullpen, arguably its biggest strength, gave up six runs including three unearned in the seventh inning and two unearned in the eight to give Houston (7-4) the win.

Jose Altuve went 3-for-3 with two walks to reach base in 11 consecutive plate appearances over three games. Brian McCann (3 RBI) and Norichika Aoki (2 RBI) knocked in five runs combined.

“We’re not the only team that has that problem,” Said Melvin on keeping Altuve off base. “He uses the whole field, pulling the ball between the hole and third and short, hits one the other way to right field. On top of that you know he’s going to be able to steal bases and affect the pitchers tempo. He’s one of the better players in the league for a reason.”

Davis kept his McGwirean pace, launching his fifth homer of the season off the camera well in centerfield to open the second. Davis fell behind 2-2 but worked a full count before lifting Keuchel’s 88 mile-per-hour cutter to left center for a 1-0 lead. While Davis won’t likely maintain his 80 homer season pace, he may be the first Athletic to hit 50 in a season since Big Mac in 1996.

The Astros tagged Graveman back from a surprising source of power in the top of the fifth. The nine-hole hitter Norichika Aoki punished a belt-high sinker on a 1-0 count, hitting his first homer of the season onto the stairs over the right field wall. Aoki hit four long balls last year, with two coming against the A’s.

Graveman exited the game with the no-decision after just 5 innings and 74 pitches and one run. The opening day starter has given up just four runs over 18 innings this season, but Friday marked his shortest outing of the year after pitching 6-plus innings in his previous two starts.

“His first couple games, he threw a lot of pitches for the amount of time he was out there,” said Melvin. “He didn’t feel great. I wasn’t going to mess around with it.”

Graveman is expected to make his next scheduled start, but said that the cold was keeping him from getting and staying loose.

He gave way to Ryan Madson, another pitcher who had trouble with Nori Aoki. After the Astros put runners on second and third with two outs in the sixth, the light-hitting outfielder again picked up a run scoring hit for a 2-1 lead.

Madson (0-1, 2.25 ERA) exited the game with two outs in the sixth on the line for the loss, making way for Ryan Dull. A throwing error by Trevor Plouffe allowed Jose Altuve to score from second base. After Bregman reached base on a walk, Melvin went to the lefty Daniel Coulombe. Coulombe couldn’t escape the jam, giving up a two-run double to Brian McCann with two outs. In total, Houston scored 3 runs in the 7th, all unearned to take a 5-1 lead.

“We’re always concerned about our defense,” said Melvin. “We haven’t been consistent, as a matter of fact we’ve been inconsistent here recently. IT’s an area of concern. You can’t give away runs and extra outs to a team like that.”

Chris Devenski came in for the Astros, pitching a scoreless eighth inning despite giving up a leadoff double to Marcus Semien. He then punched out Rajai Davis, Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis. Houston tacked on a run in the ninth after Altuve walked to open the inning, moved to second on a balk off Raul Alcantara and scored on Plouffe’s second throwing error of the game. McCann would pick up a sacrifice fly in the inning as well.

Plouffe atoned for his earlier errors, taking Michael Feliz deep for his first homer of the season with one out in the ninth. He was previously 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, two looking.

The A’s will look to get back to .500 Saturday, sending Sean Manaea to the mound for game two of the series. Manae is coming off a stellar start against the potent Texas Rangers, going seven innings and allowing just two hits and one run. He’ll be opposed by Lance McCullers Jr. The Houston lefty is 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA.



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