Astros capitalize on sloppy A's, walk off on error
By Jordan Ray and Chris Abshire
HOUSTON -- For the second time in three days, the Astros walked off on the A's at Minute Maid Park, this time thanks to an error on a throw to first by Danny Valencia in the 10th inning, which allowed Jake Marisnick to score the winning run for a 2-1 Houston victory Sunday. The game, which was dominated by starting pitching, was the first-half finale for both teams and secured a series split for Houston.
"[Wins like that are] something I'd like to avoid if we can just win normally," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Defensive miscues plagued Oakland, undermining a great pitching performance by Sean Manaea, who went seven innings without allowing a run. The A's had gone 15 consecutive games without an error, but that streak was broken Sunday as they had a season-high four.
"You don't win many games with four errors, yet we got one pitch away from winning the game," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. "The first ones didn't cost us, but the last one did."
The Astros tied the game in the ninth inning when Evan Gattis lined a two-out RBI double down the left-field line off A's closer Ryan Madson to drive in Carlos Gomez, who had reached on an infield single.
Dallas Keuchel pitched a gem for the Astros, allowing only four hits and one run on a broken-bat single from Marcus Semien in the sixth inning. It was only the second time this season that Keuchel allowed fewer than two runs in a start.
With the win, the Astros are seven games over .500 at the All-Star break for the second consecutive season, despite going 7-17 in April. Their .539 winning percentage is their highest at the break since 2003.
"I want to win as many games as we can," Hinch said, "and I don't care what order we win them in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Beard trending back: Keuchel hasn't looked like himself for most of the first half, but the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner sure looked a lot like 2015 Keuchel in his final start before the break. The lefty was smooth for seven innings, striking out five. It was one of his best starts of the season and one the Astros hope bodes well for the rest of the year.
"I thought he was fantastic," Hinch said. "I think his last couple of starts have started to trend in the right way where his stuff, his execution, his tempo was much better. We're seeing the result come out of his hand. He can really dictate where the ball's going now, compared to earlier in the year, and [finish] his pitches, [finish] at-bats." More >
The magnificent Manaea: The rookie turned in his best outing of the season, as he absolutely shut down Houston's big-swinging offense and was able to work around the A's errors. He was dropping in offspeed pitches on the black and only allowed two runners to reach second base. The start was good enough to drop his ERA to 5.24.
"Throwing a changeup and sliders for strikes, showing them on the first pitch and getting ahead of their aggressive hitters was key," Manaea said. More >
More late-inning magic: The Astros made a habit of putting together late-inning comebacks this series, and Sunday was no exception. It was the second straight game where Houston put its first run on the board in the ninth inning, and the second walk-off win in the last three days as Luis Valbuena's homer helped the Astros beat the A's on Friday. Sunday's win was the Astros' eighth walk-off victory this season, which is the most in the Majors.
"I'm thinking, 'Try to get a good pitch to hit,'" said Carlos Correa, who hit the ball that resulted in Marisnick scoring the game-winning run. "Drive it and try to help the team win the game. I guess I did that."
Maddening Madson: The A's closer didn't enjoy his best weekend in Houston. Two days after blowing a two-run lead in the ninth, Madson couldn't lock down the save again. It was his fifth blown save of the season in 22 tries. Madson has allowed five runs across 2 2/3 innings at Minute Maid Park this season, going 0-2 with one save and two blown saves in four appearances. While he's getting interest on the trade market, the inconsistency he displayed this series could hurt his stock.
"[The Astros] have battled me for years," Madson said. "A lot of times they find a way. They found a way again today. It seems like I make one mistake [and] they're on it."
"We haven't played our best, but I'll take my team against any team in the league. I don't know what that means. I don't know what declaration that is, but I like my team the best." -- Hinch, on the Astros' chances going forward
In the bottom of the second, Gattis, listed at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, sprinted for second base as Danny Worth was caught looking at strike three. Gattis notched the first stolen base of his four-year Major League career. Prior to Gattis' steal, he ranked 10th in MLB history in career plate appearances (1,636) without a steal.
WHAT'S NEXT A's: After this week's All-Star break, the A's return home to host the Blue Jays on Friday night at 7:05 PT in the Oakland Coliseum. Lefty Rich Hill will get the ball after compiling a 2.25 ERA in the first half, as he allowed just two homers in 13 starts with a 9-3 record.
Astros: Houston opens the second half of its season in Seattle on Friday night at 9:10 CT against the Mariners. Doug Fister (8-6, 3.55 ERA) will look to break a three-game losing streak against a team the Astros swept on their recent homestand.