Athletics

Khris Davis, Chad Pinder drive in three runs apiece as A's beat Astros 8-3

Khris Davis, Chad Pinder drive in three runs apiece as A's beat Astros 8-3

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON -- Chad Pinder hit a three-run homer and Khris Davis added three RBIs as the Oakland Athletics jumped on Lance McCullers Jr. early and cruised to an 8-3 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.

Davis, who extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games, put the A's up 2-0 with a double in a three-run first. Pinder made it 6-0 when he connected off McCullers (10-4) for his ninth homer in the fourth.

Oakland starter Chris Bassitt (2-3) yielded five hits and three runs in five innings for his second straight win after losing his first three decisions.

Yuli Gurriel drove in two runs and Tyler White hit a solo homer that cut the deficit to 6-3 in the fifth, but the AL West-leading Astros lost for the second time in three games.

McCullers allowed four hits and six runs while walking five in four-plus innings for his first loss since May 26. It came after a stellar outing last time out, when he whiffed a career-high 12 while permitting just three hits and a run in seven innings of an 11-4 win over the White Sox.

Things went wrong for him quickly when he walked two batters with one out in the first. The A's took a 2-0 lead when both runners scored on the double by Davis. A single by Stephen Piscotty sent Davis to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Chapman.

McCullers plunked Chapman to start the fourth before walking Mark Canha. Oakland pushed the lead to 6-0 on the homer by Pinder to left field.

Bassitt retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, and the Astros didn't get a hit until Alex Bregman's single with nobody out in the fourth. Jose Altuve singled before Gurriel's two-run single cut the margin to 6-2.

White got the Astros to 6-3 when he hit his first homer this season in the fifth.

Emilio Pagan allowed one hit in two scoreless innings after Bassitt's exit.

Marcus Semien doubled with one out in the sixth and scored on a two-out triple by Davis to push the lead to 7-3. Oakland made it 8-3 on an RBI single by Josh Phegleyin the ninth.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Astros: INF Marwin Gonzalez sat out after taking a cleat to the left wrist Tuesday night. He is day-to-day. ... SS Carlos Correa (back stiffness) ramped up his activity and said he's feeling good and believes he is inching closer to a return.

Athletics: Piscotty exited in the middle of the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch on the left wrist in the top of the inning. The team said his wrist was bruised.

UP NEXT:
Oakland RHP Trevor Cahill (1-2, 2.77 ERA) will come off the disabled list to start against Charlie Morton (11-2, 2.83) in the series finale Thursday. Cahill has struggled on the road this season, going 0-2 with a 5.66 ERA. Morton has won four of his last five starts.

A's 2019 projections: Frankie Montas, next reliable big league starter

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USATSI

A's 2019 projections: Frankie Montas, next reliable big league starter

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

At times last season, Frankie Montas looked like a top-flight big league starter.

In his five wins, the young right-hander recorded a sparkling 1.05 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. However, in his four losses, his ERA swelled to 6.33 with a WHIP of 2.06.

Overall last year, Montas went 5-4 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, compiling 43 strikeouts and 21 walks in 65 innings of work. His most impressive outing came July 9 in Houston, when he shut out the defending world champion Astros through six innings, allowing just three hits and two walks.

Montas, 25, will try to take another step forward in his development next season when he figures to begin the year in the A's starting rotation. The talent has always been there for Montas, who was ranked as the Dodgers' fourth-best prospect in 2015 by MLB Pipeline, ahead of players like Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler. His high-90s fastball and mid-80s slider form a terrific combination with which to attack hitters.

Baseball Reference projects Montas to go 5-4 next season with a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. They predict him to pitch 74 innings with 66 strikeouts and 28 walks.

We expect Montas to go over 100 innings, if for no other reason than Oakland's lack of starting pitching depth. Montas will have a great opportunity to establish himself as a reliable big league starter.

The biggest key will be the first inning. Last year, Montas' first-inning ERA was 8.18, far higher than any other frame. If he can settle into his starts, his above-average stuff should take over.

[RELATED: A's top prospect could return as early as midseason]

We believe Montas will have a breakout season in 2019 with a major increase in his strikeout total, as he continues to learn how to utilize his dominant fastball and solid slider.

Projection: 10-6, 3.69 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 91 K, 36 BB, 108 IP

Three A's named to Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list

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AP

Three A's named to Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list

The A's won the early version of the Battle of the Bay, well, at least when it comes to prospects. While the Giants only had one player named to Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list on Wednesday, the A's had a trio recognized for their potential. 

Here's where all three prospects found themselves in the Top 100: 

Jesus Luzardo, LHP, No. 7 

When talking about the A's future, it all starts with Luzardo. And fans shouldn't have to wait long to see him in Oakland.

Luzardo, 21, was acquired by the A's from the Nationals at the 2017 MLB trade deadline, in a deal that also gave them All-Star closer Blake Treinen. Since then, he's looked like a star in the making. 

Between three levels, Luzardo went 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts to 30 walks in 109.1 innings pitched in 2018. He's the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, and the A's already expect him to be a big factor in the majors this upcoming season.

A.J. Puk, LHP, No. 18 

Puk, 23, missed all of the 2018 season due to Tommy John surgery. He sustained the injury at the end of spring training where he had a 3.38 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched at big league camp. 

When healthy, Puk can be lights out on the mound. The 6-foot-7 left-hander struck out 184 batters over 125 innings pitched in 2017, one year after the A's made them their top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. 

There's even better news than his prospect ranking, too. Puk is reportedly making "tremendous progress" in his rehab.

Sean Murphy, C, No. 72

Murphy, 24, could be the A's starting catcher as soon as this upcoming season. He hit .288 with eight home runs in 68 games at Double-A in 2018, but his real ticket is defense. 

Baseball America writes, "Murphy has Gold Glove potential." On the 20/80 scouting scale, they have his defense at 60 and arm at 70.

The A's only have Josh Phegley and Chris Hermann on their depth chart right now. A strong spring training and start to the season could get Murphy to Oakland in no time.