OAKLAND — As swiftly as the A’s appeared to grab some momentum by sweeping the Yankees, it was snatched from their grasp.
The Houston Astros have taken the first three games of this mid-week four-gamer at the Coliseum, and the A’s will have to win Thursday afternoon’s finale to avoid being on the other end of a sweep.
They generated barely a whisper offensively in a 5-1 loss Wednesday night, advancing just one runner as far as third base. Mike Fiers (5-2), who’s come on strong for an Astros rotation that’s been decimated by injuries, held Oakland to three hits over six innings. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four June starts.
Sean Manaea (6-4) was rolling along for the A’s until the sixth, when the Astros broke a scoreless tie with five hits and three runs off the lefty. Manaea wound up taking his first loss since May 15.
Striking quick: It was 0-0 when the Astros opened the sixth with three consecutive singles. Jose Altuve got things going, then Carlos Correa singled to center and advanced to second on Jaycob Brugman’s throw that went through to third, putting two runners in scoring position. Evan Gattis drove both home with a single to center, and he would score on Jake Marisnick’s single. That was all the offense Houston would need.
Alonso provides a spark: Yonder Alonso, in a fierce fight to win the All-Star vote and be the American League’s starting first baseman, doubled in the seventh and scored on Stephen Vogt’s groundout for the A’s only run.
Outfield arms: The A’s started Rajai Davis in left and Matt Joyce returned to the lineup in right after missing Tuesday with back tightness. Joyce did well to hold Brian McCann to a single in the fourth, retreaving his drive to the right field corner and firing it back to the infield. Davis kept a run from scoring in the third when he fielded Nori Aoki’s single and fired it back to the infield to keep Marisnick from scoring. That sequence was noteworthy given how often opponents have been taking the extra base on Khris Davis when he plays left.
Chapman still day-to-day: As the A’s look to avoid a four-game sweep Thursday, it’s unclear if they’ll have third baseman Matt Chapman back in the lineup. The rookie missed his third game in a row with an infection in his left knee. Manager Bob Melvin said the swelling in Chapman’s knee has gone down, but Melvin was non-specific on Chapman’s return.
“If it’s not tomorrow, hopefully it’s (the) Chicago (series this weekend).”
Stephen Vogt, Mr. Utility: The A’s were working with a two-man bench with Chapman out, which led to catcher Stephen Vogt making his first appearance in the outfield in three seasons. After pinch-hitting for left fielder Rajai Davis in the seventh, Vogt assumed left field duties in the top of the eighth and was immediately put through a workout. The first four Houston batters of the inning all hit balls toward left field, and Vogt more than held his own, including retreating to the warning track to haul in Jake Marisnick’s sacrifice fly and cutting off Alex Bregman’s double.