HOUSTON — The Astros’ dangerous top-of-the-order hitters finally broke through against the A’s bullpen Saturday.
Carlos Correa singled to score George Springer with one out in the bottom of the 12th and send the A’s to a 6-5 loss Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
The A’s made them work overtime for it, as Jed Lowrie’s homer with two outs in the top of the ninth tied the game 5-5. Oakland’s bullpen was fantastic after Kendall Graveman left the game in the fifth. But the eventual game-ending damage came in quick order against A’s closer Ryan Madson (2-2).
Springer sliced a double down the right field line to lead off the bottom of the 12th. Jose Altuve bunted him to third and Correa lined the first pitch he saw down the right field line for the walkout single. Correa finished 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run.
The A’s and Astros entered this weekend neck-and-neck in the standings and looked to make a move in the American League West.
So far it’s been Houston that’s made that move. The Astros has taken advantage of subpar A’s starting pitching to help them take the first two games of this series.
They scored three times off Kendall Graveman in the second inning to erase their 3-0 deficit and chased the right-hander by the fifth inning, having got to him for five runs on seven hits.
After winning five in a row, the A’s have lost the first two of this eight-game road trip. On Friday, the Astros jumped on Jesse Hahn for seven runs and he never made it out of the first inning of a 12-2 loss.
The A’s (25-31) arrived in Houston leading the Astros by a half-game for third place in the AL West, but they’ve fallen into last place as they enter Sunday’s series finale looking to avoid the sweep.
Starting pitching report:
The A’s looked in position to rebound from Friday’s rout, scoring three times off Collin McHugh in the top of the second. But Graveman immediately gave the lead back in the bottom half. After Colby Rasmus doubled, Evan Gattis continued to hurt the A’s after Friday’s four-RBI night. He crushed a two-run homer to left to make it 3-2. Then Graveman allowed Luis Valbuena’s single and walked Marwin Gonzalez before Jake Marisnick tied it with a sacrifice fly.
Graveman carries a 7.03 ERA over his past eight starts, and his inability to get shutdown innings has been one of his biggest issues. During his last five starts, Graveman has had five opportunities to post a scoreless inning after Oakland has scored. He’s done so just twice.
The Astros went ahead 4-3 in the third inning. Graveman hit Correa with a 1-2 pitch, and Rasmus banged the next pitch off the wall in left field for an RBI double.
The A’s got terrific work from their relief corps leading up to Lowrie’s heroics. That included 1 2/3 scoreless innings from lefty Daniel Coulombe and a big-time escape job from Sean Doolittle in the eighth. Doolittle allowed Correa’s leadoff triple but stranded him there by striking out the side and keeping the A’s within 5-4 at that time. Then John Axford entered in the ninth and struck out five over two innings. From the fifth through the 11th, A’s relievers struck out 12 over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
At the plate:
Lowrie’s first homer of the season was a dagger — at least temporarily — to his former team. It came with two outs in the ninth, as he hit an 0-1 slider from former Athletic Luke Gregerson into the right field seats.
The A’s took an early lead with a three-run rally in the second off McHugh, and it was sparked by an unlikely source. Chris Coghlan, who entered the game hitting an American League-worst .153, pulled a two-run double to right field to get Oakland on the board. Then Yonder Alonso tagged up and scored on Josh Phegley’s shallow fly to center and the A’s led 3-0.
They trailed 5-3 in the sixth when Danny Valencia put a charge into a 2-2 pitch from McHugh and hit his ninth homer, all nine coming since he returned from the disabled list May 6.
In the field:
Rasmus came up with a huge play in left field in the top of the 11th. Lowrie lined a hit past him, but the ball took a perfect kick off the wall right back to him. Rasmus turned a fired a strike, on the fly to second to nail Lowrie going for a double. Credit an assist to Jose Altuve, who blocked Lowrie’s foot on his slide with his own foot.
The announced turnout was 37,223.
Sonny Gray will return to the A’s and pitch Sunday’s series finale, nearly a week earlier than he was expected to come off the disabled list. Gray (3-5, 6.19) is taking the turn of Rich Hill, who is still bothered by a groin strain. Lance McCullers (2-1, 4.79) takes the ball for Houston. First pitch is 11:10 a.m.