The first eight innings Tuesday were about what Astro fans expect from a Justin Verlander start. The All-Star pitcher tossed six innings of shutout ball while the offense supplied four runs on a pair of solo homers by Alex Bregman bookending two RBI singles from George Springer.
Fair or foul? Winner hugs line.
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Ho-hum. Another easy Astros win.
Then Ken Giles entered for the ninth and things got crazy. Three Oakland hits led to three Oakland runs and when Hector Rondon got a pair of strikeouts, the A's were down to their last out but Marcus Simien delivered a game-tying double to force the game into extras.
In the 11th, Stephen Piscotty cranked a solo homer off Collin McHugh to give Oakland all the momentum. On came closer Blake Teinen who is perfect in converting save opportunities - until Tuesday night.
Josh Reddick started the do-or-die comeback with a walk. Kyle Tucker, in the first multi-hit game in his big league career, rapped a single to right, moving Reddick to third. The Oakland defense moved in as Tiny Tony Kemp came to the plate. Oakland catcher Jonathan Lucroy's night was about to go from bad to worse.
Kemp spanked a 2-1 pitch back through the box but Simien grabbed it and threw home in time to get Reddick at home - only Lucroy did not come up with the throw. Reddick scored after going back to touch the plate while Lucroy fumbled with the ball. Tie game, 5-5.
Springer, who plated Tucker in the second and the fourth, flied out to right for the first out of the 11th which brought up Bregman, the master of the walk-off. With the count 1-2, Bregman jabbed at a sinker and got just enough to tab the ball a short distance down the first base line. Lucroy stabbed at the ball and expected to hear "foul ball" but the home plate umpire said nothing. So Lucroy lunged at Bregman who deftly reversed gear and avoided Lucroy's tag. So the exasperated catcher flung the ball over to Mark Canha standing right at first base but the throw missed its target and sailed into right field as Tucker came around and scored the winning 6-5 run.
Bob Melvin had already been ejected earlier in the game so the remaining Oakland coaching staff asked for an appeal. By the time it was upheld, the dogpile had begun and the series was knotted at one apiece.
At the time I write this, Seattle was losing to Anaheim on the coast so Houston's lead is likely to jump to four. Collin McVulture (5-0) stayed undefeated although his ERA crept back over 1.00. Verlander gave up just three hits and no runs while fanning six.
Gerrit Cole, Monday's starter went on the Bereavement List after the loss of his grandmother. Jake from Fresno farm was recalled. Because the AAA league was in their own All-Star Break, Marisnick was advised not to leave town in case he was needed. Turned out, he was. Marisnick started in center field and went 1-for-3 at the plate.
The series continues on Wednesday night with Lance McCullers (10-3) facing off against Chris Bassitt (1-3) in the 7:10 pm Central time duel. The Athletics are back to 9 games out fo first in the AL West division.
- Bob Hulsey