Programming note: A’s-Astros coverage starts today at 3:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Territory restrictions apply) Channel locations
The A’s took the smart path to victory Friday night against the Houston Astros.
They kept getting runners on base and then let the bumbling Astros get in their own way. The result was a 12-5 victory at Minute Maid Park that, unless you were watching this 4-hour, 6-minute monstrosity, you wouldn’t have guessed was a nail-biter entering the ninth inning.
It wasn’t pretty to watch, and it won’t always work against higher-quality opponents. But playing against a division foe, the A’s are looking to stash away wins in any form possible.
[RECAP: A's strike late, beat Atros 12-5]
The Astros committed three errors, and every one led to an Oakland run, directly or indirectly. The final one came with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, when Daric Barton hit a single that shot past second baseman Jose Altuve (who could have been tagged with an error himself) and scooted into shallow right field. George Springer couldn’t pick it up clean, and speedy Craig Gentry motored all the way around from first on the three-run play that snapped a 5-5 tie.
A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked in his postgame media session if he’s ever seen such a play.
“No, I haven’t seen that,” Melvin told reporters. “I don’t know that anybody else makes it around the bases (except Gentry).”
The A’s have outscored the Astros 22-6 over the past two nights, and that helps mask the fact that the A’s didn’t play a particularly tight game themselves Friday. They showed some sloppy defense during Houston’s four-run fourth, as Josh Donaldson committed a throwing error that allowed two runs to score (the A’s 22 errors are tied for the A.L. lead).
Later in the inning, no one covered second base on Dexter Fowler’s blooper, and Fowler ended up with a double.
Oakland did some good things defensively too. A 3-6-1 double play that ended the bottom of the third – it started with a nice stop by Daric Barton and ended with pitcher Jesse Chavez covering first – was a thing of beauty to watch. But sooner or later, the A’s have to find a way to ditch the avoidable defensive mistakes.
But they did what it took to win Friday, and it gives them a 25-5 record all-time against the Astros. That’s the best record for one Major League club against another among any teams that have played each other 20 or more times.
Each of the past two nights the A’s have gotten to Houston’s bullpen no later than the sixth inning. Brett Oberholtzer lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Thursday’s start and former A’s prospect Brad Peacock was gone after five innings Friday. “I think that’s the goal anytime – get in the bullpen,” A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie said. “You make them put in a lot of work, so in those later games in the series, they’re worn out.”
And it wouldn’t be an A’s-Astros game without a little bad blood. In the top of the ninth, Brandon Moss became the first player in Oakland history to be hit by a pitch twice in the same inning. In the bottom half, A’s reliever Fernando Abad plunked Jason Castro, which eventually led to the ejection of Astros manager Bo Porter.
Let’s remember that one reason the A’s and Astros can keep this hit-by-pitch war going is because the score has been so lopsided in Oakland’s favor that there’s little at risk once the extracurricular activities begin.
What type of game will Saturday bring? It probably doesn’t matter to the A’s, so long as the end result remains the same.