It's a two-team race in the AL West, and one of them is beginning to pull away from the other.
After holding on to first place throughout most of the season, the Athletics now have fallen further and further behind the Houston Astros in the division.
A frustrating 9-6 loss Tuesday night in Houston has the A's four and a half games out of first place, their biggest deficit since April 8.
The A's were shut out Sunday before their day off on Monday. Tuesday though, the A's offense woke up, scoring six runs in the first two innings against Houston starter Framber Valdez.
“It’s encouraging to see our bats early in the game," A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "We had a really good approach against a guy that had not given up much all year. To score six runs in the first two innings was encouraging, but we had one of those games where they just swung the bat better in a later part of the game.”
The recipe for beating the Astros? Pitch well, play good defense, and score runs. In short: do everything right and make no mistakes.
Unfortunately for A's starter Chris Bassitt, mistakes were made against Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez, who finished the game 3-for-3 with two homers and five RBI, including a game-tying three-run blast in the bottom of the sixth inning.
What went wrong?
“Missed locations and having no life to any pitch," Bassitt said after the loss. "If you’re going to miss locations, you better have life to the pitches, and I had nothing today. It really sucks when our offense came out and to not have your stuff. I had nothing today.”
It should be no surprise that the Astros are one of the best teams in all of baseball. Just take a look at their lineup.
Even without star third baseman Alex Bregman, the Astros lineup is loaded. That very lineup, led by the 24-year-old Alvarez, scored the most runs off Bassitt of any team this season.
“That whole lineup is disgusting," Bassitt said. "When you don’t have your stuff, good luck. Obviously Alvarez is really good, but it’s not just Alvarez, it’s [Michael] Brantley, [Jose] Altuve, Bregman when he’s healthy, [Carlos] Correa.
"I’m not saying Alvarez isn’t elite, he’s really good and has a lot of power, but if you don’t have stuff on your pitches and you’re missing locations, you’re screwed.”
The A's jumped out to an early lead and looked as if they were going to win a big game against their division rival, only for Bassitt and the A's to watch a win slip through their hands.
“We had a win, and they took it from us," Bassitt said. "It’s that simple."