Thursday night began the A’s ‘soft’ schedule that will lead them through the final few weeks of the regular season.
The plucky Astros, however, making their second appearance in Oakland in less than a month, continued to be a thorn in the collective side of Bob Melvin’s squad, scoring three runs early against rookie Sonny Gray and making them hold up en route to a 3-2 win over Oakland.
Gray allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in the first 1 2/3 innings of the game, but only allowed one hit for the rest of his outing, which carried him through the eighth inning. In that second inning, a misplay by Yoenis Cespedes in left field (on an RBI single from Jose Altuve) allowed two runs to score rather than one, and that would prove to be a decisive moment in the game.
Against Astros starter Brad Peacock, the A’s couldn’t muster much in terms of offense (a day after battering around Rangers ace Yu Darvish, no less).
Peacock’s knuckle-curve was especially deadly, freezing many A’s on called third strikes. Seth Smith, for one, struck out three times against the righty.
Peacock, you might remember, was involved in the off-season trade that brought Jed Lowrie to Oakland. Perhaps eager to play ‘spoiler’ against his former employers, Peacock more than held up his end of the young pitching match up with Gray.
The A’s bats were held in check until the bottom of the eighth. With Peacock still pitching, Eric Sogard hit a leadoff triple and Stephen Vogt doubled him in, plating the A’s first run. At that point, lefty Kevin Chapman came in and struck out Coco Crisp, retired Josh Donaldson on a groundout, and allowed an odd infield single from Lowrie (putting runners on the corners with two outs). At that point, Bob Melvin swapped out Brandon Moss for Nate Freiman (to match up against the lefty Chapman). Bo Porter countered by bringing in righty Jorge De Leon, prompting Melvin to pinch hit Alberto Callaspo for Freiman.
On a two-strike pitch, Callaspo hit a light grounder toward the pitcher, who fired home in an attempt to nab Vogt at the plate for the third out. Vogt was ruled safe, pulling the A’s to within 3-2.
Josh Fields then came in to face Yoenis Cespedes with runners on first and second, and Cespedes grounded to third to end the threat. Fields would then work a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down the Astros victory.
With the loss, the A’s move to a half game back of the Rangers in the West. Because the Tampa Bay Rays lost, though, Oakland remains 2.5 games above Tampa as the top Wild Card team.
The A’s will try to get back to business and take advantage of this ‘soft’ schedule tomorrow night, when A.J. Griffin (12-9, 3.84 ERA) takes on Dallas Keuchel (5-8, 4.77 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. PDT.