OAKLAND – At times the A’s have short-circuited in one particular facet of the game and it’s cost them.
On Saturday, fans got treated to an across-the-board display of bad baseball from the home team. From the struggles of starter Kendall Graveman to another ineffective day with the bats to two dropped fly balls in the outfield, the A’s suffered a 9-3 defeat that was not one for the time capsule.
They’ve lost a season-high three games in a row, and they fell to three games under .500 (8-11) for the first time since July 2, 2012, when they were 39-42.
The A’s will also have to win tomorrow to avoid being swept by the Astros, who sit atop the American League West at 10-7.
The score was 8-0 by the time Oakland finally jumped on the board with three runs in the seventh.
Starting pitching report
After a dazzling performance throughout the spring, Graveman (1-2) has found the going very rough in April. He exited after 4 2/3 innings, surrendering nine hits and getting charged with six runs to drive his ERA up to 8.27 through four starts. The Astros put good wood on him from the outset Saturday. Three hits, including doubles from Luis Valbuena and Jed Lowrie, got Houston on the board in the first. Then Graveman allowed a walk and single in the second before piping one in Jose Altuve’s wheelhouse. Altuve belted a three-run homer that made it 4-0.
Just three of the 14 outs Graveman recorded came on the ground, a bad sign for a sinkerballer who looks to induce grounders in order to have success. He has not resembled the pitcher who posted a major league-best 0.36 ERA during the spring, and if the A’s want to make a move for his next start, they have options. Monday’s day off allows them to alter their rotation if they choose. They could give Jesse Chavez another start. Also, Jesse Hahn is nearing a return to the rotation as he recovers from a blister on his throwing hand. Manager Bob Melvin mentioned Wednesday as a potential day for Hahn to return.
Chris Bassitt, called up Thursday from the minors, entered in relief of Graveman to make his A’s debut. He threw a wild pitch on his first offering that allowed a run to score to make it 6-0, then he hit Chris Carter with a curve ball that got away from him. But with the A’s trailing by so much, Bassitt was left in to eat up innings. The Astros tacked on two runs in the seventh, with help from dropped fly balls from Josh Reddick and Cody Ross. George Springer took Bassitt deep in the ninth for an impressive solo shot just right of dead center.
At the plate
Trailing 4-0 after two innings, the A’s didn’t show the capability of jumping back into this one while the deficit was still within reach. They managed just two hits through the first six innings against right-hander Scott Feldman (2-2). Their three-run rally in the seventh snapped a streak of 25 “regulation” innings in which they didn’t score a run (the A’s did put up four runs in extra innings of Friday night’s loss).
Eric Sogard put a charge into the crowd with a two-run triple in the seventh. Third baseman Max Muncy, making his big league debut, singled sharply in that inning for his first career hit. Then Muncy drew more cheers for when he slid hard into second to take out Altuve and make sure the Astros didn’t turn a double play on Cody Ross’ grounder. That allowed Ike Davis to score on the play.
In the field
Josh Reddick made an impressive tumbling catch to rob George Springer in the third. But four innings later, he looked lackadaisical in dropping a routine fly ball from Luis Valbuena. In the same inning, Ross dropped a catchable fly in left, and the boo birds came out.
The announced turnout was 24,342.
Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 4.24) is looking to reverse his fortunes against the Astros. The lefty has a 6.28 ERA in four career appearances against Houston (10 ER in 14 1/3 IP). He’ll match up against Asher Wojciechowski (0-1, 6.00) in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. series finale.