Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 8-4 loss to Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's 8-4 loss to Astros

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OAKLAND — The margin for error is small when you’re forced to play catch-up before the first inning even ends.

A’s starter Sonny Gray spotted the Houston Astros five runs in the top of the first, and that was a hole that Oakland couldn’t climb out of in an 8-4 loss before 15,362 fans at the Coliseum.

The A’s gradually chipped away, putting up single runs in the first, third, fourth and seventh to pull within 5-4. But Houston plated a couple big insurance runs in the eighth on Carlos Correa’s two-out two-run single off Liam Hendriks.

On the heels of sweeping four from the Yankees, the A’s have dropped the first two of this four-game series against the Astros, who improved to a major league-best 48-24.

Stormy times, then Sonny-er times: The Astros batted around against Gray in the top of the first, a 38-pitch odyssey that included five runs, five hits, two walks and a Ryon Healy throwing error that kept the right-hander on the mound even longer. Houston didn’t get to him for anything more until the left after the fifth, but the start continued a trend that has seen one big inning bite Gray in every start. He’d allowed three runs in the sixth over each of his previous three starts. This outing was different in that Gray is usually tough in the early going before teams get to him later. Coming into Tuesday, he’d allowed just two earned runs combined in the first and second inning.

Pinder power: Chad Pinder lit into a 1-1 pitch from Francis Martes in the third and drove a 448-foot home run to left-center. It didn’t quite match his homer that reached the second deck, over the luxury suites, against Boston, but Tuesday’s blast was one of the most impressive drives by an A’s hitter this season. Of Pinder’s 31 hits this season, 18 are for extra bases.

Joyce sits with back issue: It took an injury to get hot-hitting Matt Joyce out of the lineup. The right fielder was bothered by back tightness, though the hope is that he can return to the leadoff spot Wednesday night. Joyce is 11-for-20 (.550) over a seven-game hitting streak. Jaycob Brugman started in center and batted leadoff, going 1-for-4 with an RBI and a walk.

Brady makes his debut: Michael Brady, a 30-year-old infielder-turned-pitcher who attended Cal, took the mound for his major league debut in the top of the ninth. It was memorable, just not in the manner he wished. Nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltran hit a towering homer to right to extend Houston’s lead to four. Still, it was the culmination of quite the journey for Brady, who converted from shortstop to pitcher in 2010 while in the Marlins’ farm system.

A glimpse of the future: The A’s welcomed outfielder Austin Beck into the fold, signing their 18-year-old first-round draft pick for a bonus of $5,303,000, exactly what the slot value was for the No. 6 pick in the draft. Accompanied by his family, Beck slipped on an A’s uniform while dressing at a locker usually received for Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson when he’s around. Beck then took batting practice and showed some of the great bat speed that had him rated as one of the draft’s top talents. He’ll report to the A’s Phoenix-based Rookie League team Wednesday.

A's Opening Day roster told us plenty before loss to Mariners in Japan

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A's Opening Day roster told us plenty before loss to Mariners in Japan

The A's were allowed to bring 30 players on their trip to Japan before cutting the Opening Day roster to 28, including three inactive players. Oakland announced that roster Tuesday, and while there were no major surprises, we did see an interesting development in the bullpen.

Right-handers Ryan Dull and J.B. Wendelken both made the active roster, while left-hander Jerry Blevins was nowhere to be found. Now that doesn't mean his tenure with the A's is over. The 35-year-old signed a minor-league deal with Oakland this offseason and has an opt-out option at the end of next month, the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported.

Oakland was hoping Blevins would emerge as a second left-hander in the bullpen, joining Ryan Buchter, but the veteran had a dismal spring. Blevins allowed eight earned runs in just three innings, surrendering three home runs. It appears Wendelken, after a strong outing in the season opener, may be the favorite to claim the eighth and final bullpen spot.

Meanwhile, the A's placed Jharel Cotton and Nick Martini on the 10-day IL and Chris Herrmann on the 60-day IL. Herrmann underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month and clearly won't be back for a while. That means Nick Hundley and Josh Phegley will split the catching duties to begin the season.

Hundley started the opener with Phegley replacing him in the late innings.

Oakland's first four starting pitching slots will be occupied by Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. The fifth starter job remains open, with top prospect Jesús Luzardo still a strong possibility.

Luzardo didn't make the trip to Japan but continued his normal throwing routine in Arizona following a terrific spring training.

[RELATED: Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners]

The A's will have to set their official 25-man roster before their March 28 home opener against the Angels.

Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners

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Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners

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It's only fitting the A's opened the 2019 MLB regular season in a slug-fest. 

Oakland flexed its muscles to three home runs Wednesday morning in Tokyo, though the final result wasn't what the team hoped for. Despite out-hitting the Mariners, the A's lost 9-7 in Game 1 of the Opening Series. 

The mini Home Run Derby started with A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty. After 27 long balls in 2018, Piscotty is the owner of the first MLB home run in 2019, a solo shot that gave the A's an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. 

The A's took a 2-0 lead on Mariners starter Marco Gonzales in the second inning, but a five-run third gave Seattle the lead. And then, it was Khris Davis time.

The A's slugger knocked his first homer of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot to center field to cut the deficit to one run.

As he did so often last season, A's third baseman Matt Chapman put on a show with both his bat and glove.

Chapman, the Platinum Glove winner last year, showed off his arm on a Dee Gordon bunt, and three innings later crushed a three-run homer to right field, pulling the A's within two runs in the seventh. 

Mike Fiers took the loss. The A's starting pitcher only lasted three innings and allowed five earned runs. 

[RELATED: A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series]

Already though, the A's are making games exciting. Even all the way in Tokyo.