HOUSTON – The A’s got a sampling of what’s made Dallas Keuchel one of the majors’ top pitchers through the first month.
The Astros lefty pitched into the eighth and allowed just one Athletic to advance past first base as Oakland absorbed a 7-2 loss in the rubber game of this weekend series at Minute Maid Park.
After an off-year in 2016, Keuchel has regained his 2015 Cy Young-winning form, becoming the American League’s first five-game winner of 2017. He held the A’s to three hits over 7 2/3 innings, as the A’s fell to 1-5 so far on this three-city road trip. They’ve been held to two or fewer runs in five of their past seven games.
Jesse Hahn (1-2) turned in a quality start for the A’s, going six innings and giving up four runs (two earned) on eight hits. The Astros got a run off him in the first when George Springer beat out an infield hit and scored from first on Carlos Correa’s double down the left-field line. Evan Gattis’ double off the top of the left field wall scored another run in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.
Then a key play came in the fifth. Brian McCann hit a sharp bouncer toward first that took a big hop and got past Ryon Healy for a two-run single and a four-run cushion that Keuchel (5-0) wasn’t going to let slip away.
The A’s closed April with an 11-14 record and trail first-place Houston by five games
Starting pitching report
With Sonny Gray returning from the disabled list, Hahn is trying to prove he deserves to stick in the rotation moving forward. He was coming off an outstanding performance in Anaheim, when he held the Angels to one hit over eight innings. He wasn’t as sharp Sunday, but he wasn’t terrible either. The right-hander struck out six and didn’t issue a walk, but his command betrayed him a bit in the fourth. With one out, he hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch and then advanced him to second with a wild pitch. Hahn fell behind Gattis 3-1 when the A’s killer hit a run-scoring double to left that fell just a few feet short of being a home run. The Astros’ two-run rally in the fifth was aided by Josh Reddick reaching base on yet another catchers’ interference play. Stephen Vogt was called for the infraction twice Friday night with Reddick hitting. Josh Phegley was behind the plate Sunday.
Any thoughts of an A’s ninth-inning comeback were dashed when Frankie Montas served up a three-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the eighth. Oakland’s bullpen has surrendered 16 runs in 15 2/3 innings against the Astros this season for a 9.19 ERA.
At the plate
The A’s offense got cranking too little too late. Trailing 4-0 in the eighth, Adam Rosales singled and eventually came around to score on Ryon Healy’s two-out single. Rosales aided the rally with a steal of second base, which snapped a string of eight games without a stolen base for Oakland. They’re expecting to welcome Rajai Davis back from the disabled list Tuesday, and his speed is certainly needed with the offense scuffling. Down 7-1 in the ninth, Josh Phegley doubled and scored on Chad Pinder’s single. The A’s loaded the bases with two outs, prompting Astros manager A.J. Hinch to call on closer Ken Giles to retire Yonder Alonso for the final out.
In the field
Phegley’s catchers’ interference call went down as the game’s only error.
The turnout was 34,880.
The A’s wrap this nine-game road trip with three at Minnesota. They went 4-2 against the Twins last year. Sonny Gray will make his first start of the season in Tuesday’s 5:10 opener, opposed by Ervin Santana (4-0, 0.77). Wednesday — Kendall Graveman (2-1, 2.25) vs. lefty Hector Santiago (2-1, 2.43), 5:10 p.m. Thursday — Jharel Cotton (2-3, 5.00) vs. Kyle Gibson (0-3, 8.06), 10:10 a.m.