By Morris Phillips
Bob Melvin was dismissive. Blake Treinen was close lipped. And the entirety of the A’s clubhouse was disappointed and frustrated.
Quite simply, winning ballgames at Houston’s Minute Maid Park occupies the highest priority for the ascendant A’s. And they didn’t do any of that this weekend. Instead, three consecutive losses concluded with the team’s collective hands tied behind their backs as Aledmys Diaz crossed the plate with the winning run on Sunday.
The Astros simply played along, taking advantage of the A’s shortcomings in a 9-8 loss that ended on a bases-loaded walk to Jose Altuve.
Melvin didn’t say much other than the entirety of the afternoon at the ballpark was rough, virtually obscuring a patient comeback that saw the A’s overcome a three-run, first inning deficit only to establish an 8-6, eighth inning lead.
But then they blew that.
“I think the majority of the game, there was frustration. It is what it is,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Only the best pitchers get the opportunity to issue four walks in a ballgame. Relievers almost never get that opportunity, and closers don’t stick around long enough to have things go that wrong. But there was Blake Treinen–not only the A’s best pitcher, but arguably their best player–struggling in the ninth inning in a more heightened spot than normal.
Looking for a five-out save, Treinen walked Josh Reddick leading off. Then Diaz singled. His next pitch–a 97 mph sinker–was a brief reminder of what the Astros feared from Treinen. Robinson Chirinos bunted the explosive pitch with little command, allowing catcher Josh Phlegley to field it cleanly, and cut down the lead runner, Reddick, at third.
Backup designated hitter Tony Kemp hitting .211 provided Treinen an opportunity to record a critical, second out. But home plate umpire Marvin Hudson made controversial, ball calls on Treinen’s first two pitches, then again on his last to Kemp, which loaded the bases.
Afterwards, Treinen was careful to steer clear of opinions on Hudson’s calls. Little needed to be said: in 80 plus innings of work in 2018, the closer walked 21 batters.
“It’s not really acceptable to truly speak your mind on things sometimes,” Treinen said.
Treinen’s too much of cool customer to appear rattled. But with the plate-disciplined Altuve up, none of the closer’s pitches were strikes and the first two weren’t close.
With the sweep, the A’s failed to carry the momentum of a one-loss homestand, or close ground on the division-leading Mariners. Either way, the first three opportunities against the defending division champs were squandered.
“They’ve had some success and we want that success,” Phlegley said. “We really wanted to get them this series.”
The only, acceptable follow-up to such a rough series? Dominating a four-game set at Baltimore, as the Orioles lost 115 games in 2018 and are rebuilding.
On Monday, Marco Estrada will be opposed by Baltimore’s Andrew Cashner in a 4:05 pm start.