The Oakland Athletics have been the hottest team in the major leagues for nearly a month. coming into Thursday’s series finale against the Houston Astros, the A’s had gone 18-5 over last 23 games, the best record in the majors in that span.
One of the reasons the A’s have been so dangerous is that they are at their best late in games. Coming into play on Thursday, they led the major leagues in runs scored in the eighth inning (66), were 36-0 when leading after seven and were 43-0 when leading after eight.
Their record against AL West teams, though, wasn’t so rosy: 14-26. Their two wins earlier in the week against the Astros were just their second and third of the season. Then came the eighth inning. A game-tying double by Matt Chapman, a two-run single by Mark Canha and Gold Glove defense from reliever Ryan Buchter keyed the A’s second comeback of the series and a 6-4 win, and clinched the series over the World Series champions.
The A’s (53-41) have now won seven of their last nine, and five of seven on the current road trip, as they head into the Bay Bridge Series on Friday, but fell behind early against Houston (62-34). Oakland starter Trevor Cahill gave up Alex Bregman’s 30th double of the season in a 36-pitch third, cashing in walks to Tony Kemp and George Springer.
Cahill, who had just come off the disabled list with an Achilles injury, got the first two men in the fourth, but then allowed a sharp single to center by Max Stassi, and was pulled for Chris Hatcher.
Hatcher promptly served up a 93-mph fastball up and away to Kemp, who deposited it into the Crawford Boxes in left. With a 33-degree launch angle and an exit velocity of just 90.7 mph, it was more a pop fly than a home run, but it did the job, putting the A’s in a 4-0 hole.
Cahill only managed to get through 3 2/3 innings, but Astros starter Charlie Morton didn’t fare much better. He loaded the bases in the fifth before Nick Martini cut that lead in half by going down to his shoe tops and skying a fly-ball double to center, one of his three hits on the day. With one out, Stephen Piscotty sent a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez got a glove on it, but deflected it into the grass behind second base for an RBI single.
Reliever Collin McHugh then came on and spun a nifty curve to strike out Khris Davis — who slammed his bat into the dirt in frustration — and after walking Matt Olson to load the bases again got Matt Chapman to pop out, ending the threat.
Davis would later extend his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a broken-bat line drive over short to lead off the eighth inning. Matt Olson then sent a grounder to the right side, past a diving Jose Altuve for a single. After splintering his barrel swinging at a 3-1 offering, third baseman Matt Chapman lined a changeup down the left field line for a double, bringing Davis around to tie the game at 4-4.
Canha then stepped up and slugged a fly ball into the left field corner, just fair in front of the Crawford Boxes. Two runs scored, but Canha was caught up watching the drive and only made it to first.
Ryan Buchter came on for the bottom of the frame, and promptly took a leadoff liner off the behind from Yuli Gurriel. he scrambled to pick up the ball and fired a side-arm fastball to first for the out. Buchter then deflected a bunt from Josh Reddick, but was able to chase it down up the first base line and glove-flip it to Olson at first for the second out.
After Buchter’s inning, Lou Trivino came on for the second time in the series. On July 9, the A’s set-up man and sometimes-closer threw two innings and struck out three. He fanned two in a perfect ninth for his fourth save of the season.