Barbara Mason is filling in for Amaury Pi Gonzalez:
#1 The A’s are in the middle of a five-game losing streak. They took Monday off and open up a road trip in Anaheim and Texas after getting swept by Houston. Is this a laundry list of things that manager Bob Melvin has to be concerned about?
#2 Frankie Montas will start on Tuesday night and has pretty much been the bright note in the A’s pitching rotation at 6-2, 2.81 ERA. Sometimes, it takes a spark to get things going again and Montas has had some games where he has been lights out.
#3 Free agent Dallas Keuchel is still up for grabs. He hasn’t pitched all season. Once signed, could he jump right in and help a ball club right away?
#4 Another free agent is the former Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who can also help a club. He hasn’t thrown a pitch since the World Series. Could Kimbrel be ready once he’s called on.
#5 The Giants are playing on the road this past week against two last place clubs, including the Baltimore Orioles. What does getting a couple win off the Orioles mean for the Giants after struggling much of this season and opened up the series in New York with a 9-3 win over the Mets ?
#1 Manny Machado signed baseball’s biggest contract with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for 10 years and $300 million. What does this do for the Padres and how does someone like Machado get away from the Dodgers?
#2 Former NBA official Tim Donaghy was accused of betting on basketball, but it was never really revealed how he fixed games until an ESPN report saying that Donaghy was paid to fix games and got paid to do it. Some of the top NBA officials came from Philadelphia and Donaghy was from those parts. The influence as to why was simple…money!
#3 Baseball superstars Dallas Keuchel, Bryce Harper and Craig Kimbrell are still free agents looking for that longterm lucrative contract and all three are not in a MLB spring training camp holding out until some big league team comes calling with boatloads of money in the neighborhood of $300 million. At this early stage of spring training, are they fooling themselves or are they onto something?
#4 One of the first African American pitchers in baseball history, Dan Newcombe passed away on Tuesday at age 92. Newcombe joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949. He finished his ten-year career with the Dodgers at 149-90 and an ERA of 3.56. Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said he was the best hitting pitcher he ever saw.
#5 Knowing that San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has announced his retirement after this season, was it a matter of Bochy losing his magical touch in the last few seasons or he just simply doesn’t have the talent on the Giants roster to win a World Series again–much like he did previously?
#1 What would it mean for the Washington Nationals in 2019 if they were able to re-sign Bryce Harper?
#2 Would the Dodger Manny Machado be in a deal for Bryce Harper seem possible or practical for both Dodgers and Nats?
#3 The Milwaukee Brewers have expressed interest in San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Will the Giants part with the lefty who was a big part of their World Series success?
#4 The New York Mets get JD Davis from Houston, sending catcher Kevin Palwecki to Houston who turned around and later got dealt to Cleveland. Palwecki will get more time behind the plate in Cleveland. As the Mets signed catcher Wilson Ramon to a two-year, $19 million deal.
#5 The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel is being floated on the free agency market. It shouldn’t take long before a team goes out and signs him.
OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics beat the Houston Astros 7-1 at the Oakland Coliseum on Saturday afternoon and are now tied for first place in the American League West. Fans were in disbelief that the A’s (74-49) were in contention for the Wild Card in the AL, but now, the Green and Gold are fighting to win their division. Virtually none of those fans thought that was a possibility before the season began.
Strong starting pitching and power hitting was the key to the A’s win on Saturday.
Trevor Cahill (5-2) started the game for Oakland. He has been pitching the lights out in the Coliseum with an ERA under one at home. Cahill continued his mastery of opponents in his home stadium as pitched seven innings of shutout baseball, allowing the Astros just one hit. The right-hander struck out seven batters and walked just one. Cahill threw 100 (62 strikes).
The A’s also went on another power surge on Saturday as they hit eight doubles which tied an Oakland single-game record, but you were not allowed to hit just one double – you had to hit two. All of the extra base hits were recorded by four A’s hitters. Khris Davis (24), Stephen Piscotty (33), Matt Olson (26) and Josh Phegley (6) hit all of the “two-baggers” for Oakland versus Houston. The A’s posted a total of 11 hits in the contest.
The A’s were trailing the Astros by 12 games back on June 18. Today they are tied for first place.
Oakland’s 74-69 (.602) record is tied for third best in the majors. It is tied for fourth place in A’s history after 123 games.
Khris Davis’ double in the first inning snapped a 0-13 hitless streak.
Matt Olson’s two doubles extended his hitting streak to six games.
Matt Chapman’s 14 game hitting streak and 30 game on-base streak came to an end on Saturday when he went 0-for-4 in the game.
Add on Trevor Cahill: he retired 20 of the 22 batters he faced in the game. The A’s have won Cahill’s last seven starts.
The A’s scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning which means the Astros opponents have now outscored them 56-55 in the first inning.
Alex Bregman’s road on-base streak continues as he picked up a base-on-balls on Saturday. His streak currently stands at 38 games.
The ‘Stros recorded just two hits in their loss on Saturday. It was just the third time this season they posted two or fewer hits in a game.
Dallas Keuchel (9-10)–who was charged with the loss–saw his four-game road winning streak come to an end.
The A’s and Astros wrap up the three game series on Sunday at 1:05 pm PDT on Sunday.
The Astros will send RHP Justin Verlander (11-8, 2.52) to the mound in an attempt to salvage one win in the series. The A’s will go with their ace LHP Sean Manaea (11-8, 3.44). Manaea won his last start on Monday in Oakland over the Mariners 7-6. He is 1-1 in three starts versus the Astros this season.
Heading into the game on Sunday with the Astros, the Oakland Athletics had gone 15 consecutive games without committing an error – a franchise record. On Sunday, the A’s committed four errors and one of those errors literally cost them the game as they lost the series finale 2-1 in 10 innings to the Astros in Houston.
In the bottom of the 10th inning with two out and runners at the corners, Carlos Correa hit a hard grounder down the third base line that Danny Valencia fielded 10 feet behind the bag. Valencia’s throw pulled first baseman Yonder Alonso off the base allowing Carlos Correa to reach safely. The Astros Jake Marisnick took off from third with the crack of the bat and he scored easily to give Houston its second walk-off victory of the four-game series.
The win gave the Astros a 2-2 split in the final series before the All-Star Break. The A’s finish their seven-game road trip with 3-4 record. Oakland finishes “the unofficial first-half of the season” with a record of 38-51 in fourth place in the American League West 15.5 games behind division leading Texas.
Beyond the tragedy of losing an extra-inning game on an error, the A’s wasted a great outing by rookie starting pitcher Sean Manaea. Manaea who was roughed up in his last start really rebounded on Sunday. He worked 7.0 innings on Sunday giving up no runs on just five hits. Manaea walked none and struck out six Astro batters. He threw 106 pitches (72 strikes) in his seven innings of work. Manaea wound up with a no decision for his start on Sunday.
On the Bump
The A’s used a total of four pitchers on Sunday. John Axford pitched one scoreless inning and struck out two taking over for Manaea in the eighth inning. Ryan Madson was brought in to close out the game out in the ninth inning. Madson gave up a one-out infield single to Carlos Gomez who then advanced to second on a stolen base. With two out, Evan Gattis lined a double to left that drove Gomez home to tie the game at 1-1. It was Madson’s second blown save of the series and his fifth of the season.
Liam Hendricks was on the mound in the bottom of the 10th when the winning run crossed the plate so he is hung with the loss and his record falls to 0-2.
Dallas Keuchel started the game for Houston. Last year’s Cy Young Award winner has really struggled this season. He worked seven innings against the A’s giving up one run (earned) on four hits. Keuchel struck out five and walked two. Keuchel (6-9, 4.80) ended up with a no decision despite turning in one of his better performances of the seasons.
Astros reliever Will Harris gets the win as he was pitcher of record in the 10th inning.
In the Batter’s Box
There are not many highlights to talk about for the A’s at the plate. The Athletics managed to accumulate just four hits on Sunday afternoon. All of their hits were singles.
The A’s scored their lone run by putting two of those singles together in the sixth inning. Catcher Matt McBride led the inning off with a grounder to left field. McBride moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt by Coco Crisp. Marcus Semien then hit a sharp line drive to left that allowed McBride to score from second.
Oakland went 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left four runners on base.
The Astros strung together eight hits in the game. The RBI-double by Evan Gattis in the ninth was the only extra-base hit of the game for either side. Gattis also had the only multi-hit day going 2-for-4 at the plate.
Houston left nine men on base and went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Defense (or lack there of)
Danny Valencia not only had to deal with the anguish of giving up the winning run on error producing throw in the bottom of the 10th inning, he had to deal with the fact it was his second error of the game. He had a fielding error earlier in the contest. Valencia has now committed 13 errors on the season.
Marcus Semien committed his ninth error of the year in the bottom of the sixth inning when he had trouble fielding a ball off the bat of Marwin Gonzalez.
Coco Crisp committed his second error of the season in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The A’s have now committed 57 errors on the season – fourth most in the American League.
For most of the A’s the next few days mean some much needed rest and escape from the pressures of a season gone awry. Only Stephen Vogt is heading to San Diego for the All-Star festivities.
For the A’s management and coaching staff, the four days are going to have to be ones of real reflection, honest evaluation and decision making about the future.
On the field, only one goal makes any sense right now and that is getting to .500. Being 13 games under .500 at the All-Star Break creates an incredible uphill climb for the A’s. Getting to .500 will take a Herculean effort and then it may be too late to contend even for a Wild Card spot. But getting to .500 is the only goal that makes sense for A’s on the field right now.
In the front offices, the questions are all about what does the team do between now and the August 1st trade deadline. Oakland has some players that contenders have to be interested in for the stretch run to the postseason. Hitters like Valencia, Davis and Reddick will always be in demand. A veteran utility guy like Jed Lowrie who comes with a decent bat is a desired piece in the postseason. Teams cannot have enough pitching so Rich Hill, Ryan Madson, John Axford, Sean Doolittle (if healthy) and even Sonny Gray may be players being sought after by contending clubs.
What will the A’s want in return? Prospects is what it will be all about. Think Manea, Mengden and there are more players in Triple-A and Double-A from recent trades that are showing true potential to be big league material.
The one thing that is a given for A’s fans in the second half is it will not be boring. It never is.
Despite Oakland’s being in contention all season, and Houston’s doing the opposite, an A’s-Astros game is frequently hard-fought, and tonight’s was no exception. An announced attendance of just over 15,000 went to enjoy a balmy (80 degree) evening at O.co Coliseum and saw a competitive game that had the fourth inning beginning well after the hour-and-a-quarter mark.
The A’s scored first in the second inning when Yoenis Cespedes singled to center, reached second on Nate Freiman’s base hit past shortstop Jonathan Villar, and third on a fielder’s choice, scoring on Chris Young’s bunt back towards Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel. In the third, the Astros’ first three batters – Villar, Jose Altuve and Trevor Crowe – all hit Oakland starter A.J. Griffin (with a double for Villar) and all scored, the latter two on Matt Dominguez’ single. That made it 3-1 for the visitors. But in the bottom of the frame, The Athletics’ first two batters – Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie – followed a similar pattern. both hitting doubles, to tie it at 3. In the next inning Villar bunted for a single and brought Brett Wallace home from third. Advantage Houston, 4-3. But the Oaks scored two runs in the bottom of the inning, on a hit by Lowrie and a groundout by Cespedes. Donaldson’s two-run homer to left in the sixth broke the game open.
Houston added a run in the ninth when Villar singled to short and Altuve to right, with Crowe reaching on a force attempt with an error by second baseman Eric Sogard; Villar scored.
Keuchel took the loss (5-9; 3.1 ip, 10 h, 5 er, 2 w, 3 k) and Oakland starter A.J. Griffin is the winner (13-9; 7 ip, 4 er, 1 w, 9 k). Grant Balfour got his 37th save.
The A’s are once again in the lead for the AL West. The two teams meet again at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday, September 7 with RHP Dan Straily (8-7, 4.38 ERA) opposing LHP Brett Oberholtzer (4-4, 5.91).