Corban Joseph smacks first career homer in Coliseum slugfest

Career minor leaguer hits first career big-league homer in record-setting win for A’s over Astros

OAKLAND — As he rounded the bases following a 424-foot home run to center field, Coban Joseph blacked out. As he crossed home plate, the crowd broke him out of his trance.

In the stands for his first home game as an Oakland Athletic were his wife, Emery, the couple’s children and his mother. In 11 professional seasons, with just 17 previous major-league games to his name, the 30-year old career minor-league infielder had never hit a home run at the big-league level. “It was a great relief,” he said.

Joseph’s home run was part of a record-setting night where the A’s and Astros made the spacious Oakland Coliseum seem like a bandbox. The two teams combined for 10 home runs in a 7-6 Oakland win — the 9,000th in franchise history — with Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Carlos Correa and Michael Brantly hitting two apiece.

“Coors Field tonight, huh?” said manager Bob Melvin, whose team moved a game and a half back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second AL wild card.

The 10 combined homers set the Coliseum record for combined home runs in a game, and fell just two round-trippers short of the all-time American League record for combined home runs in a game. Six of the big flies exceeded 400 feet and all 13 runs were driven in via the homer.

“There were no cheap homers,” said Oakland starter Mike Fiers. “It’s great that these guys didn’t take off any at-bats. This is a big win, especially on a night where I didn’t really do m

y job.”

Entering the four-game series with Houston, the A’s (69-52) had been outscored 60-27 in 11 previous matchups with the Astros, averaging fewer than three runs per game. The A’s were hitting .223 with an average of 4.2 runs per game in their previous 20 games overall, and an offensive explosion didn’t seem likely against a Houston team with the fourth-best ERA (3.74) in the majors.

The A’s rediscovered their power stroke just in time to snatch the series opener – driven by two long balls apiece from Chapman and Olson and the first-career major league homer for Corban Joseph – to counter an Astros lineup that teed off against oft-reliable right-hander Fiers, who gave up five runs on four homers in six innings. In 25 prior starts, he had not allowed more than two long balls in a game.

In his first 3 2/3 innings, Fiers appeared on track to record his 15th quality start in his last 16 starts, holding the Astros hitless and retiring 10 straight after a leadoff walk to George Springer. Two batters later, the score was 2-0 on a rocket to left field off the bat of Alex Bregman.

The A’s responded in kind, smacking two homers of their own in the bottom of the fourth, the first a three-run shot by Olson.

Olson laid into a 3-2 fastball from opposing starter Aaron Sanchez to take the lead from Houston, and with 25 homers on the season, is now on pace to break his career-high of 29.

“A lot of those [home runs] are still getting out,” Olson said. “It was awesome to see it fly.”

Next, Joseph made a good impression on the Oakland faithful later in the frame with his first longball.

“He really earned his way here after a long time,” Melvin said. “That ball was smoked. Looks like he’s got a nice stroke and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. Good call getting him up here.”

In the sixth, Chapman and Olson went back-to-back, with the former cranking a ball 453 feet into the left field seats and the latter logging his second long ball, wrapping it around the right field foul pole. The solo shots gave Oakland a 6-4 lead and Olson his second two-homer effort of the year.

Correa and Brantley equaled Olson in the seventh and eighth with solo bombs of their own and by the bottom of the eighth, the A’s advantage had vanished.

“It feels kind of like a playoff game,” Chapman said. “It was a fun game, a lot of back and forth.”

It was Chapman who would supply the final lead change of the night, capping the evening with a go-ahead solo blast in the bottom of the eighth. It was the All-Star third baseman’s 29th of the year, bringing him up to sixth in the AL and extending his career-high mark.

“He seems to come up with best work when the game’s on the line,” Melvin said of Chapman. “That’s what your best players do.”

Liam Hendriks sealed the deal in the ninth with a clean inning and the A’s got the best of Houston in a high-scoring series opener.

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By Al Saracevic