by Charlie O. Mallonee
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.