Athletics

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Astros' sweep of once-hot A's

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Astros' sweep of once-hot A's

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OAKLAND — Under some circumstances, a 4-4 homestand against the Yankees and Astros wouldn’t seem so bad for the A’s.

This wasn’t the way they would have preferred it however.

After sweeping New York in four at the Coliseum, the A’s proceeded to drop four in a row to Houston, including Thursday's 12-9 loss, making this an historic stay at home whether they wanted it that way or not. Only one other time in the past 106 years had the A’s played back-to-back four-game series and swept the first while being swept in the second.

The first time it happened was in September 1977, when they were swept by Texas before taking the broom to Kansas City.

Thursday’s contest got out of hand early, with the Astros jumping out to a 10-0 lead by the second inning before Oakland came roaring back late.

Jesse Hahn (3-5) was out of whack from his first batter and lasted just two innings, getting hammered for a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) and allowing two home runs.

On the same day Oakland designated Stephen Vogt for assignment, another noteworthy former Athletic enjoyed a huge day against his old team as Josh Reddick finished just a single short of the cycle and scored four runs.

But the A’s came alive for a six-run rally in the eighth to close to within 12-9 and make the Astros sweat it.

But Oakland wound up falling a season high-tying 11 games under .500 at 31-42. A six-game road trip is up next to play the White Sox and, once again, the Astros, who ran their winning streak at the Coliseum to 10 and have won 15 of their past 16 against the A’s.

Short day for Hahn: It was clear early that Hahn didn’t have his ‘A’ game. He hit George Springer with a 3-1 pitch to begin the game — Springer exited with a left hand contusion — then walked the next two batters to load the bases with no outs. He limited the damage to two runs in the first, but the Astros poured it on for eight runs in the second, including three-run homers from Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez.

Maxwell returns with strong game: With Vogt designated for assignment, Bruce Maxwell was promoted to assume catching duties alongside Josh Phegley, and Maxwell enjoyed a 3-for-4 day, including an RBI double as the A’s rallied in the eighth.

The other new arrival also shines: Matt Olson, also called up Thursday as Matt Chapman went on the 10-day disabled list, went 2-for-3 with two RBI.

Reddick has big day: Reddick doubled in the second, homered in the sixth and tripled in the eighth, but didn’t get a chance to complete the cycle against his former club.

Smith steadies things on mound: : Josh Smith took over after Hahn left the game and threw three scoreless innings, striking out four and keeping manager Bob Melvin from having to empty his bullpen.

A's notes: Canha, Fowler demonstrate Oakland's depth with clutch hits

A's notes: Canha, Fowler demonstrate Oakland's depth with clutch hits

OAKLAND — Despite Tuesday's loss to the Angels, a pair of somewhat forgotten A's outfielders had big nights. Left fielder Mark Canha made his first start in 10 days and came through with a big three-run double in the fourth inning. Rookie Dustin Fowler pinch-hit in the eighth and notched a two-run single, his first hit since July 26.

“It just felt good to contribute,” Canha said. “It was a big moment for me. ... When you're not playing all the time, it's nice to have some reassurance that what you're working on when you're not playing is the right thing.”

“Everybody is ready to play,” added A's manager Bob Melvin. “They know we're going to pinch-hit and try to get the best matchups. ... Guys know in our dugout when to be ready for certain situations and both those guys were.

Canha's bases clearing double gave him 50 RBI for the season. He has already tied a career high with 16 home runs.

--- Right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden allowed just one run in four innings of work. In his last three “bullpenning” appearances, Mengden has allowed one run on three hits in 13 2/3 innings.

“I'm getting really acclimated to this new role now,” he said. “I feel like I have my feet under me now and have a grasp of what to do and how to handle it.”

“I thought he was good,” Melvin added. “He gave us what he needed to and left with a lead. Usually in that situation, we're able to close out games.”

--- Pitcher Liam Hendriks has thrown five straight scoreless innings as an “opener.” He lowered his ERA to 2.70 in his six starts this season.

--- Second baseman Jed Lowrie walked three times, tying his single-game high. He set a career high with his 74th walk of the season.

--- Reliever Shawn Kelley allowed his first runs as a member of the A's. He had thrown 12 1/3 scoreless innings in his previous 14 games.

--- Angels center fielder Mike Trout blasted his 15th home run at the Coliseum since 2010, the most of any visiting player during that time. This season in Oakland, Trout is batting .424 (14-for-33) with two homers and six RBI. 

--- The A's have lost three games in a row for the first time since July 27-29, when they were swept by the Rockies.

--- The A's fell to 6-8 against the Angels this season. Los Angeles has won the season series four straight years. 

--- Despite Tuesday's loss, the A's are 56-25 since June 16, the best record in Major League Baseball.

Stephen Piscotty questions game-changing call, but doesn't fault A's fan

Stephen Piscotty questions game-changing call, but doesn't fault A's fan

OAKLAND — A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty has no doubt he would have caught the ball. Neither does manager Bob Melvin.

With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, and the A's leading 4-1, Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons skied a foul ball down the right field line. That's when the Coliseum experienced its Steve Bartman moment, as a fan reached over the railing and deflected the ball away from Piscotty. Given new life, Simmons would single home two runs, sparking a six-run inning, as the Angels beat the A's 9-7.

“He was going to catch it,” Melvin said after the game. “I'm not sure what they saw that we didn't see.”

“As an outfielder, you have a good idea when that ball is coming in close where to put your glove, and I felt like I was in the spot,” Piscotty added. “It's a tough play going into the wall, but I felt like I was there in enough time. It definitely changes how that inning goes, but there's nothing we can do about it now.”

Melvin challenged the ruling, asserting fan interference, but after video review, the call on the field stood.

“We've seen him catch that ball in the corner many times,” Melvin said of Piscotty. “It's not going to be an easy play, and maybe that was the overriding factor in New York, that it wouldn't be an easy play and they can't just give you a play like that. Just a guess.”

“I never understand when they're going to overturn stuff,” Piscotty shrugged. “I had a feeling they wouldn't.”

Piscotty added that he didn't blame the fan. “Obviously we don't want folks to interfere, but 95 percent of people are gonna do that. I don't fault the fan or anything.”

The A's have lost three straight games for the first time since late July, allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to creep back within 5 1/2 games of the second AL Wild Card spot. But the players remain confident in themselves and each other.

“I think we'll be fine,” said RHP Daniel Mengden. “We've been in every ballgame and we give ourselves a chance to win every time in the late innings. ... I'm not worried about it. I think the team is in a good spot.”

“This team is as talented as they come,” added outfielder Mark Canha. “It's only a matter of time before the ball starts rolling the right direction again. The resilience is still there. There's fight in us. The telltale signs are all there that we're going to bounce back and start getting on a roll here.”

Melvin echoed those sentiments, adding that he appreciated his team's resilience even in defeat. 

“It wasn't our cleanest game, but we came back after being down considerably and made it game again. When you talk about bouncing back, it's not necessarily just the next day, it's as the game goes along. I think we showed that.”