OAKLAND – The A’s are becoming experts at sifting through the disappointment of losses such as Thursday’s in an effort to extract something positive.
Aaron Brooks’ effort didn’t factor into the final outcome of a 5-4, 10-inning defeat to Houston, but it was another standout performance from a pitcher who didn’t arrive in Oakland with very much fanfare.
The right-hander should have walked away with a victory against the Astros. Instead, he was forced to delicately field reporters’ questions about a night that went so well individually, but was so deflating for his new team.
In two starts since arriving from Kansas City in the Ben Zobrist trade, Brooks has given up just two runs over 14 1/3 innings. He became just the fourth pitcher in Oakland history to throw seven or more innings and allow one run or fewer in each of his first two outings with the team.
“I think just being able to throw first-pitch strikes with any pitch was huge,” Brooks said of Thursday’s outing. “They’re an aggressive team. For them not to be able to sit on any certain pitch definitely helped out.”
We’ve seen this pattern before. There’s something about coming to Oakland that allows young pitchers to thrive in their new surroundings. Brooks, 25, came over from the Royals as the less heralded of the two pitchers the A’s acquired for Zobrist. Minor league lefty Sean Manaea carries much more hype.
But like other inexperienced starters the A’s have acquired via trades in recent seasons --- Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone are just a couple that come to mind –- Brooks is showing the ability to contribute right away in the rotation.
It’s not a great direct comparison. Brooks has done it for just two starts, and Parker and Milone won rotation spots and began producing right at the start of the season (2012, in their case). But it’s an encouraging sign, if you can look past the disappointment of Thursday’s final score.
Even though the A’s tied the game in the ninth and the Astros won it in the 10th, the game-turning moment that still stood out afterward was the two-run homer that reliever Fernando Rodriguez served up to Astros star rookie Carlos Correa in the eighth, which erased Oakland’s 2-1 lead.
It was the same story that’s doomed the A’s bullpen all season -- a pitch that missed location horribly, at the absolute worst time. With first base open and two outs, Rodriguez said he was trying to go away with a 2-0 fastball to Correa. Instead it ran in.
“Off the bat, I was expecting the worst. And it was,” Rodriguez said.
Brett Lawrie’s 452-foot homer that appeared to hit off the base of a luxury suite in center wound up being a footnote after the wild finish. But it was one of the longest homers hit at the Coliseum in recent years.
“That ball was crushed,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He has the power to do that. You watch him take batting practice. You know how strong he is.”
Given the way Lawrie sent his ball into orbit, Melvin and several players were surprised that Coco Crisp’s well-struck drive in the bottom of the ninth only reached the warning track and became the third out.
“I thought it was a homer for sure,” first baseman Ike Davis said. “This park is weird sometimes. I thought it was a no-doubt home run.”