OAKLAND – Chris Carter delivered a crushing homer against the A’s on Friday night, and Oakland blew a golden bases-loaded opportunity that came back to haunt them.
Neither development qualifies as a surprise the way things have gone for the A’s. They were left to ponder a 4-3 defeat against the Houston Astros, the kind of opponent a postseason contender should be putting away, particularly in its home ballpark.
Granted, the Astros have now won five in a row. But these are the kinds of series the A’s should be using to fatten up their record as they scoreboard-watch to see how their fellow American League contenders are faring.
They couldn’t get it done in Friday’s series opener, and was it any surprise that Carter was smack-dab at the center of their misery? He crushed a tape-measure two-run blast off Jeff Samardzija in the sixth that turned a 3-2 A’s head into a 4-3 Astros advantage.
That’s how it ended, as the A’s have gone 7-17 over their past 24 games.
Carter, the former Athletic, now has seven home runs and 20 RBI in 16 games against his former club this season. There was a runner on first and two outs when he went deep, and though it’s unconventional to walk a hitter without a base open, the A’s would be wise to at least consider the option the rest of this weekend.
Carter delivered the dagger, but the A’s hurt themselves by coming up empty in the bottom of the fourth in a bases-loaded, no-outs situation.
Making matters worse, the Los Angeles Angels won a back-and-forth contest at Minnesota and the A’s now trail them by six games in the AL West.
Starting pitching report
Samardzija (4-5) is eating up innings for the A’s. He’s racking up strikeouts and generally displaying very good stuff. But the long ball is biting him. The two homers he gave up Friday gave him 11 in 12 starts for Oakland, compared to the seven he surrendered in 17 starts with the Chicago Cubs.
Jon Singleton jumped on a first-pitch fastball in the third and mashed a ball over the elevated wall in right-center to put Houston ahead 1-0. Samardzija couldn’t get a shutdown inning after being handed a 3-1 lead, as Carter singled in the fourth to score Jose Altuve and make it 3-2. Then with a runner on in the sixth, Carter absolutely unloaded on a 3-2 pitch and sent it rocketing over the wall in left-center. It landed just a few rows in front of the luxury suites, startling a pocket of fans who couldn’t have imagined a baseball would travel far enough to find them.
Samardzija gave up four runs on six hits over seven innings. He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter, but the homers proved costly.
Ryan Cook looked very sharp with two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 eighth, and Fernando Abad finished off the ninth after relieving him.
At the plate
The A’s put up three runs in the third to command a lead, though they hardly knocked the cover off the ball in doing so. An infield single from Alberto Callaspo and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Then Derek Norris blooped a single that ricocheted away from right fielder Jake Marisnick and scored two. After Jonny Gomes popped out, Adam Dunn grounded a run-scoring single through the shift and into right field to make it 3-1.
Drawing a rare start against a left-hander, Dunn’s RBI gave him five in four games with the A’s.
But the fourth inning was more a reflection of what’s going on with this team offensively. A dropped fly ball from Dexter Fowler loaded the bases with no outs, and the A’s looked poised to build on a 3-2 lead. Instead they squandered the opportunity.
Craig Gentry bounced a ball to third that forced Nate Freiman at home. Then Josh Donaldson hit into a home-to-first double play to end the threat, and the way things have gone, you had a feeling that sequence might wind up costing the A’s.
In the field
The Astros committed two errors, but the A’s couldn’t make them pay for it.
A crowd of 21,130 was on hand.
Scott Kazmir (14-7, 3.39) was happy to put August in his rear-view mirror. His 7.80 ERA was the fourth highest single-month mark in Oakland history. He’ll oppose right-hander Scott Feldman (8-10, 4.09) in a 1:05 p.m. game Saturday.