It was supposed to be a happy moment for the Oakland A’s but Elvis Andrus (center) came up with a leg injury after scoring at the plate on a game winning hit by Starling Marte. Manager Bob Melvin is bent over Andrus to check on him as A’s defeat the Houston Astros in the ninth inning at Oakland Coliseum on Sat Sep 25, 2021. (AP News photo)
Houston 1 – 3 – 0
Oakland 2 – 7 – 0
By Lewis Rubman
Saturday, September 25, 2021
OAKLAND–Before last night’s thrashing of the Houston Astros , the Athletics were a moribund patient, comatose for six weeks. By game’s end, they had blinked their eyes a couple of times, alieviating just a little the sadness but shaking the resignation of their well wishers. Hope doesn’t spring eternal, but it dies hard.
It looked as though yesterday’s stirrings of hope would quickly fade when José Altuve lined Sean Manaea’s first offering into left field for a two bagger, but Houston fell victim to the Curse of the Lead Off Double as Manaea set down Alex Bregman, Yordán Alvarez, and Carlos Correa in rapid fire order.
For an encore, the A’s starter struck out Kyle Tucker, Marwlin González and Jake Meyers, making it six straight ‘stros he had retired after Altuve’s initial hit. He set Houston down to a conga beat again in the third.
Framber Valdez was handling the A’s efficiently for the visitors. He didn’t allow a baserunner until Khris Davis walked on a 3-2 pitch to open the home third. Valdez recovered to strike out Sean Murphy, but Elvis Andrus chopped a safety into left, and the top of the order had men on first and second with one out as it mounted the green and gold’s first offensive threat of the afternoon. It fizzled. Harrison struck out, and Marte bounced into a force out to Bregman at the hot corner.
Carlos Correa broke Manaea’s string of 11 consecutive outs by drawing a full count walk with two down in the fourth. Undaundted, Manaea, who began the day at 10-10, 4 .05 with 180 strike outs, added his fifth of the afternoon, fanning Tucker, to make it 185 and counting.
There was nothing shabby about Valdez’s work, either. He didn’t yield his second hit until Chad Pinder, he of last night’s grand slam, singled to right with Olson, who had walked, on first with two down in the bottom of the sixth.
Houston’s lefty had started the game with a record of 11-5, 3.07, was matching Manaea, almost pitch by pitch. After six frames, Manaea had thrown 75 and Valdez, 82.
Houston finally broke the tie in the top of the seventh with Kyle Tucker’s 28th home run of the dying season, a 387 foot blast to right center on a 2-2 count off a 93 mph sinker. To add injury to insult, Marwin González slammed Manaea’s next offering off the pitcher’s legl and all the way into left field, where it landed for a single, the Astro’s third hit of the game.
With one gone in the bottom of that inning, Khris Davis slammed a drive off the right field scoredboard. He judiciously stopped at first, where Skye Bolt pinch ran for him, Davis’s safety evened the hit counts but not the score.
Valdez retired Murphy on a fly to deep right and then hit Andrus on one of his feet to put runners of first and second. That’s when Dusty Baker and Josh Miller called on the ex-Athletic Kendall Graveman to face Harrison, whose bloop single to left did ltie the score.
The run was charged to Valdez, so his brilliant effort went unrewarded in the win column. Graveman saved Valdez from being charged with a loss by striking out Marte.
The final line for Houston’s starter was 6-2/3 innings pitched, one run, earned, on three hits, four walks, and hit batter. He struck out three and brought his ERA down to 2.98. He threw 95 pitches, 52 for strikes
Lou Trivino relieved Manaea to start the eighth. The southpaw started had gone seven frames, in which he threw, like Valdez, 95 pitches. 63 of the ones Manaea threw were strikes. Again,like his rival Manaea allowed one run, earned, on three hits, and hit a batter. But he gave up only one free pass and struck out eight Astros, making a total of 188 for the season.
Trivino retired Houston in order in the eighth.
After Graveman walked Olson to start Oakland’s half of the inning, Tony Kemp pinch hit for yesterday’s hero. Kemp took a called third strike, a called with which he disagreed as he strolled away from hoe late umpire Ed Hickox.
There was no disputing Canha’s clean line drive single to left that moved Olson up to second, giving Chapman, who had struck out five times last night and was hitless in his three at bats so far today, a chance to drive in the leading run.
He walked on five pitches to load the bases for Seth Brown, who pinch hit for Bolt. Graveman got two quick strikes on him, delivered a ball in the dirt, and then struck him out swinging. Murphy, with the bases loaded a two outs, grounded out to Correa at short.
Andrew Chafin pitched the top of the ninth wilth the score still knotted at one a piece. He began by striking Alvarez out on a 3-2 fast ball. He followed that by retiring Correa on a weak grounder to second. Kemp, now in left field, made a grand slliding catch of Tucker’s fly, nabbing it just as it crossed the line into foul territory.
When Andrus entered the batter’s box to lead off the bottom of the ninth, he was facing Ryan Pressly, Houston’s closer, who had a 5-2 won-lost record, a 2.19 ERA, and converted 25 of his 27 save opportunities.
This, of course, was not one of those opportunities. He could get a win, a loss, or a non-decision. Andrus slammed a hard line drive single just past Bregman. Harrison struck out swinging. Marte, 0-4 at the plate, sent a liner between González in right and Siri in center to bring Andrus, with an entirely exhausted belly flop slide, home with the winning run.
Chafin, now 2-3, 1.76 was the winning pitcher. Pressly was the loser, and his record now is 5-3, 2.32.
Wow! Two straight, a blow out and a walk off! Maybe we’ll see the moribund patient get up and walk before the season’s over.
We’ll have a chance at 1:07 when Paul Blackburn ((1-3, 5.17) faces Jake Odorizzi (6-7, 4.22)