Following the A’s 11-3 drubbing of the Houston Astros Friday night, the two teams faced off again Saturday in front of a packed house of 33,166 fans hoping to see the American League best Oakland A’s improve on their record.
Thanks to a ninth inning rally, the A’s fans were sent home happy with a final score of 4-3 as the A’s have taken the first two games of the weekend series against the Astros.
Scott Kazmir, 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA headed into the game, took the mound for the A’s and pitched well in search of his third victory, unfortunately, the offense was unable to capitalize on their many scoring opportunities up until the ninth inning and he was instead straddled with a no decision
The only blemish on Kazmir’s line through his first inning of work was a defensive error by third baseman Josh Donaldson. Kazmir responded to the Astros mini-threat by striking out the next two batters he faced to retire the side. He hit Chris Carter with a pitch in the second inning, but promptly got the next batter, Matt Dominguez, to ground into a double play and ended the second inning 1-2-3 as well.
Jonathan Villar finally ended the hitless streak for the Astros with a homer to center field for Houston’s first hit and run of the game in the top of the third inning. Craig Gentry tracked it well and nearly brought it back, but it cleared the fence in center field, ending Kazmir’s streak of six straight outs recorded.
Jose Altuve followed Villar’s homer with a single to left field and proceeded to steal both second and third base. Jesus Guzman flied out to Josh Reddick in right field to end the threat though and leave Altuve stranded at third base as Kazmir was able to limit the damage.
It took Oakland to the third inning to get on the scoreboard as well.
Craig Gentry lead off the first inning with a base hit and Derek Norris lead off the second inning with a walk, but the A’s were unable to advance either runner and take advantage of the opportunities.
Daric Barton kept the trend alive in the bottom of the third inning, ripping a double to center field to become the third A’s batter to lead off an inning by getting on base. This time the A’s did not waste their opportunity as Gentry slapped a double of his own over the third baseman’s head to bring Barton home and tie the game at 1-1. Gentry stole third base for his third steal of the season on the first pitch to shortstop Jed Lowrie putting the go-ahead run just 90 feet away with no outs.
Lowrie got the ball in the air, but not deep enough as Dexter Fowler unleashed a strong throw to the plate to keep Gentry at third. Donaldson then struck out for the second out of the inning. Cespedes was able to draw a walk to keep the inning alive and put runners on the corners, but Norris was unable to bring them in, flying out to L.J. Hoes in left field for the final out of the inning.
Chris Carter got things going for Houston again in the fourth as he doubled with one out in the inning and came around to score one batter later on Matt Dominguez’s single. Gentry made a perfect throw to the plate and Norris applied the tag, but the home plate umpire called Carter safe. Bob Melvin came out of the A’s dugout to question the call, but decided not to challenge the ruling the on the field and the Astros went back ahead 2-1.
In the top of the fifth inning, Villar added to the Astros lead, scoring on an error by catcher Derek Norris who was trying to throw Villar out at third base. The throw sailed to the right of third baseman Donaldson and into left field, allowing Villar to cruise home for a 3-1 lead on the unearned run.
Donaldson, playing on his own bobblehead day, ripped a double off the left field scoreboard with two outs in the bottom half of the fifth inning and was able to advance to third on Cespedes’ infield single to third base. Again, Oakland could not capitalize though as Norris grounded out to the pitcher to strand both runners on base.
Reddick gave the A’s a jolt in the bottom half of the sixth with a single to left field. Nick Punto, attempting to sacrifice Reddick to second base, reached on an infield hit as he beat out his own bunt down the line to put runners at first and second for Daric Barton with one out. Barton struck out for the second out and brought an end to Brett Oberholtzer’s day on the mound for Houston as Anthony Bass was brought in, inheriting both Reddick and Punto on the base paths, to fend off the A’s threat.
Coco Crisp, pinch hitting for Gentry, drew a walk to load the bases. Lowrie was unable to bring the runners home though, popping out to shallow center field.
With Lowrie’s fly out, the final line for Brett Oberholtzer became 5.2 innings pitched, eight hits , one earned run, two walks and three strikeouts. The Astros 24-year old lefty pitched well but was unable to record his first win of the 2014 season.
Kazmir pitched eight solid innings for the A’s, allowing three runs, but only two earned, on six hits and no walks. He struck out five Astros batters.
Trying to take Kazmir off the hook for the loss, the A’s again threatened in the eighth inning when Reddick and Punto hit back-to-back singles to put two on for Brandon Moss, pinch hitting for Barton, with one out. Moss hit into a fielder’s choice though, with Punto being called out at second. Reddick advanced to third on the play, leaving runners on the corners for Crisp with two outs. Crisp hit a little bloop to third though and the side was retired.
Dan Otero worked a scoreless ninth inning for the A’s in relief of Kazmir and earned the win when Oakland rallied in the bottom half of the ninth.
Lowrie connected for a lead-off homer in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to 3-2 and keep the A’s hopes of a walk-off victory alive. Following Lowrie’s long ball, Donaldson drew a walk and put the winning run at the plate in the form of Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes couldn’t drive home Donaldson, but he did slap a single the opposite way to put runners on first and second.
Callaspo tied the game after Jaso’s strikeout with a loud single to center field to score Donaldson and take Kazmir off the hook for the loss. Reddick continued his hot series with the game winning single to center field to bring home Cespedes and give the A’s a 4-3 walk-off victory.
Normally the deliverer of pies to the face, Reddick was on the receiving end today, being pied not once, but twice by Coco Crisp.
Gentry continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-3 and adding his third stolen base of the season. Reddick had another nice game, going 3-for-5 including the game winning single and Punto was 3-for-4 on the afternoon.
Despite the victory, the A’s were frustrated with runners in scoring position. Prior to their rally, they had stranded 12 men on base through the first eight innings and were just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position before their game tying and walk-off hits.
The A’s will finish the series Sunday in an Easter showdown featuring Jesse Chavez on the hill for Oakland versus former A’s prospect Brad Peacock at 1:05PM.