With one climb up a hill in the eighth inning Monday, Sam Fuld provided a needed image boost to the A’s defense.
Fuld provided one of Oakland’s top highlights this season when he ran up the center field incline at Minute Maid Park and made a sensational catch in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros. It was quite the uplifting play for a team that had lost four in a row and 10 of the past 11.
A bumbling defense has contributed greatly to the A’s woes this season, but Fuld’s play was huge as it robbed the speedy George Springer of at least a double to lead off the bottom of the eighth as the A’s clung to a one-run lead.
Tal’s Hill, as the incline is known, is one of the most unique features of any big league ballpark.
But the A’s also got a huge lift from their bullpen, the other big problem area so far, after starter Drew Pomeranz left after just 4 1/3 innings with a shoulder issue. The relief corps held down the fort the rest of the way and the A’s began this seven-game road trip on a high note.
Starting pitching report
Drew Pomeranz walked five and hit a batter before leaving in the fifth with tightness in his throwing shoulder. Further information on his status wasn’t immediately available. The lefty allowed one run and two hits in 4 1/3 innings, doing well to work out of damage in the third and fourth after putting a runner on third with one out in each inning.
Edward Mujica, Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard shut the Astros out over the final 4 2/3 innings to ice the series-opening victory over the AL West leaders. Mujica got two straight outs to strand two runners upon entering in the fifth for Pomeranz. Scribner, who has struggled of late, spotted his fastball over two scoreless innings and Tyler Clippard notched the save.
At the plate
The A’s tied it 1-1 in the second on a rally started by rookie Max Muncy, who drew his second consecutive start at first base. He doubled with one out and came around to score on Eric Sogard’s two-out single to right. The A’s didn’t generate much against Astros right-hander Lance McCullers in his major league debut, but McCullers was pulled after 4 2/3 innings, having allowed one run on three hits. He walked three and struck out five.
Oakland benefited from the wildness of lefty reliever Joe Thatcher in the sixth. Billy Butler singled and Stephen Vogt and Max Muncy walked with no outs. Brett Lawrie lined a single to right to snap the 1-1 tie, and though the A’s didn’t break through for more, that offense was enough to stand on this night.
In the field
Fuld scaled Tal’s hill and made a snowcone catch as he banged into the wall. The incline is expectd to be removed after this season, and Fuld joined Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick as playersto climb the hill to make a catch this season.
Sonny Gray (4-1) takes his American League-best 1.61 ERA into Tuesday’s 5:10 p.m. game. That’s the lowest ERA by an Oakland pitcher after eight starts since Mike Norris posted a 0.52 mark in 1980. Roberto Hernandez (1-3, 4.12) goes for the Astros.