By Morris Phillips
You know the popular methods employed by big league teams in 2019: home runs, walks and, accordingly strikeouts. Power pitching and at least for now, starters are ahead of bullpens, and both units are ahead of the hitters.
The Houston Astros are the current masters of all those methods, and they arrived in Oakland Tuesday with a reminder for the A’s of what having all those facets working looks like.
Like a 9-1 humbling defeat for the home team, the A’s fourth consecutive loss to the defending AL West champions, part of what is now a 10-game win streak for the Astros.
“I brought my worst game to a very good lineup,” said A’s starter Marco Estrada, who was lifted in the fourth inning with the A’s trailing 4-0. “Obviously that’s not going to cut it. Can’t go out there with missing the spots like I was today. Just not going to work against anybody.”
George Springer found himself staring at Estrada’s juciest offering six pitches in, an 86 mph fastball on a 3-2 count that the slugger deposited 440 feet from home plate. Josh Reddick hit his first home run of the season off Estrada in the second with Yuri Gurriel aboard. And the 35-year old was done after issuing Springer a bases loaded walk in the fourth.
“They didn’t chase, he walked some guys, got in some deep counts.. (Estrada) wasn’t throwing anything off the plate today that they were chasing,” manager Bob Melvin said of his starter who fell to 0-2 with an unsightly 6.85 ERA.
Liam Hendricks inherited Estrada’s mess and struck out the planet’s hottest hitter, Jose Altuve. The diminutive slugger homered six times in a five-game streak last week, and took a pair of healthy cuts against the A’s reliever without success.
That was good.
But Alex Bregman followed and was all over Hendricks’ changeup that traveled just 82 mph to the plate.
That was bad.
Bregman’s grand slam was the third Astros’ slam during their streak that started April 5 against Oakland. It gave Houston an insurmountable 8-0 lead and prompted Bregman’s quote-fest after the game.
“I think I’ve just been terrible, honestly,” Bregman confessed. “I haven’t been good at all offensively. Today was a step in the right direction. I’m getting beat by heaters that I never get beat by. Basically [I’m] just horrible at the plate. Honest, I’ve been terrible.”