When Ramon Laureano made a diving attempt on a second-inning line drive by Yuli Gurriel, it looked like the difference-maker as the Oakland Athletics the so far this season done very little against Gurriel’s division-leading Houston Astros.
The inside-the-park home run gave Houston a 2-0 lead, and for six more innings, it looked like it would be enough. After a Matt Olson homer briefly gave Oakland a lead, the Astros snatched it back.
Then Laureano stepped up in the top of the 11th inning and slugged an RBI double to give the A’s a 4-3 win, saving Yusmeiro Petit and finally striking against an Astros team that had won eight of the previous nine meetings against wild card Oakland.
Gurriel’s two-run liner was all A’s righty Mike Fiers would give up against the team that earned him a World Series ring in 2017, getting out of a bases-loaded jam to end the inning second and largely cruising from there over 7 2/3 frames.
Astros starter Wade Miley, though, retired the first 16 batters he faced before a Josh Phegley sixth-inning single, then got out of a jam in the seventh after back-to-back two-out singles by Mark Canha and Laureano. He proceeded to set the side down in order in the eighth and took the hill in the ninth, but a leadoff walk by Marcus Semien and a Matt Chapman single put an end to his night. At 109 pitches, Miley was too exhausted to face one last lefty, meaning Olson would face closer Roberto Osuna.
Olson socked an 0-2 offering 394 feet, well into the second deck at Minute Maid Park to give Oakland (58-44) the lead.
With A’s closer Liam Hendriks still unavailable after pitching in three consecutive games over the weekend against the Minnesota Twins, Oakland tried to finish things off with Joakim Soria. He allowed a one-out single to Gurriel, and pinch-runner Myles Straw would go from first to third on a Josh Reddick single. Aledmys Diaz would then tie the game with a sac fly, easily scoring Straw on a ball that was caught just shy of the warning track in right.
Yusmeiro Petit entered for the bottom of the 10, and though Semien’s seventh error of the year let George Springer reach to begin the inning, Petit quickly induced an around-the-horn double play from Jose Altuve and struck Alex Bregman out to push the game to the 11th.
Collin McHugh entered and allowed one-out single by Olson. He couldn’t get comfortable with runners on base, walking Mark Canha to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Laureano then rose to the occasion, ripping a grounder past a diving Bregman that went down the third base line and into the left field corner to give the A’s the lead again. The ball got stuck under the wall in left field, and even though Canha would have scored easily and Reddick made an attempt to play the ball, it was ruled dead on review, and Canha was forced to return to third.
McHugh fanned Khris Davis and Chris Devenski got Robbie Grossman to ground out, choking off the Oakland rally. Petit, who had allowed nine homers on the year, returned to the mound with just a one-run lead against the power-packed heart of the Houston lineup.
Unfazed by the go-ahead homer he had allowed in Minnesota last Thursday, Petit methodically picked the Astros apart to end the game, striking Jake Marisnick out looking, getting sensational rookie Yordan Alvarez to fly out to center and forcing a harmless groundout from Straw to end the game.
It was just Oakland’s second win over the Astros in 10 tries on the year, both in games started by Miley despite his stellar performance. In three games against the A’s this year, the southpaw has allowed just four runs in 19 2/3 innings. Nevertheless, the visitors were able to emerge with the win in large part thanks to Fiers keeping them close. It was Fiers’ 12th quality start in a row, and though he only has one win in his last four starts — with the bullpen ultimately losing two of those games — he’s been the rock of the rotation, especially since Frankie Montas was suspended for performance enhancing drugs a month ago.
It’s a win that means the A’s won’t have their backs against the wall against Justin Verlander in Wednesday’s matinee. They’ll counter with Chris Bassitt in a game set to begin at 11:10 a.m. before the team flies home. It’ll also be a chance to finish a difficult road trip with a winning record despite facing two division leaders in the Twins and Astros.