HOUSTON – No one in the A’s clubhouse speaks more earnestly than Jesse Chavez.
So when things go haywire on the mound as they did Monday night, Chavez knows no other way but to give an honest self-critique when reporters gather around.
The right-hander was ticked at himself for not taking advantage of an early two-run lead against the Houston Astros. He picked around the strike zone, trying not to let the Astros take aim at Minute Maid Park’s short porch in left field. It wound up backfiring to the tune of a career-high three home runs allowed and a season-high six runs in the A’s 7-3 loss.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Astros tee off on Chavez, beat A's 7-3]
“It’s something that’s been my Achilles’ heel, giving back the runs that we have and not being able to get through six (innings),” Chavez said. “Something’s got to change, and I think it’s gonna happen next time.”
Take his 2014 body of work, put it in the context of a guy who’d never been a regular starter in the major leagues before, and Chavez has provided stellar work. He’s 8-7 with a 3.44 ERA, and any team will take that from its No. 5 starter.
But Chavez is not eating up innings like he needs to, working as deep as six innings just once in his past six outings. He was 4-1 with a 2.54 ERA and held opponents to a .216 batting average through his first nine starts. Over his last 12 starts, he’s 4-6 with a 4.17 ERA and giving up a .280 average.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said he didn’t think Chavez’s stuff looked all that different from last week’s outing against Houston at the Coliseum, when he struck out seven and gave up just two runs over 5 2/3 innings. But his fortunes changed in the third inning Monday, after a 1-2 fastball to Chris Carter that Chavez elevated but didn’t get as high out of the strike zone as he wanted. Carter, the ex-Athletic who has definitely hurt his old team this year, jumped on it and crushed a three-run homer to center that gave Houston a 3-2 lead.
“I thought he was throwing the ball really well, real similar to his last time out,” Melvin said, “and I thought the Carter at-bat affected where things went” from there.
Chavez left in the sixth after back-to-back homers from Jason Castro and Marc Krauss put the A’s in a 6-3 hole.
That essentially put the wraps on one of the more sour days the A’s have experienced in this joyride of a season. The afternoon began with news of center fielder Craig Gentry going on the disabled list with a broken right hand.
Melvin did not have results after the game of Coco Crisp’s MRI on his injured neck. But if Crisp -- who flew back to the Bay Area -- were to hit the DL and miss extended time, the A’s would find themselves in a pretty serious bind in center.
Yoenis Cespedes handled center Monday night, but he’s better suited for left field.
It’ll be interesting to see if outfielder Billy Burns, promoted from Double-A Midland on Monday, can provide any kind of lift with his blazing speed. He pinch-hit in the ninth and flied to right in his first major league at-bat.
Burns didn’t know what to think when he got a call Monday afternoon from Double-A Midland manager Aaron Nieckula, telling him to pack his things and get to the ballpark in Frisco. While packing up, he got a call from A’s traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, and he knew what was up.
“When I walked into (Nieckula’s) office, I was grinning from ear to ear,” Burns said.
The rookie will remember Monday for the rest of his life. Most of his A’s teammates, particularly Chavez, would rather forget it.