OAKLAND — After allowing nine runs to the Houston Astros on Tuesday, the Oakland Athletics bounced back on Wednesday behind starting pitcher Frankie Montas to split their two-game series.
Montas didn’t give up a hit until the fifth, and allowed only three singles, a pair of walks and a hit batsman against the red-hot reigning AL West division champions.
The big right-hander worked into the seventh inning and let through just one run, leading the A’s to a 2-1 victory thanks to a Matt Chapman homer, snapping the Astros’ 10-game winning streak.
“I was just kinda trying to attack early, hitting my spots, commanding my fastball in and out of the plate,” said Montas. “And they were swinging too, so that kinda helps me a lot.”
Montas’ fastball hit 98 mph several times, even as late as the sixth inning, and he earned most of his six strikeouts using his slider. He also flashed his new splitter several times, and almost all of the hard contact he allowed was on the ground. It’s his third quality start in four outings this year, with all three leading to A’s wins.
“It’s starting to be dominant stuff at times, and in a game like that you have to count on your starter to lead the way and he definitely did that,” said manager Bob Melvin.
Houston did finally get to Montas in the sixth inning. Staked to a 1-0 lead, he walked George Springer and then Alex Bregman, before allowing a single to Michael Brantley to drive in a run. Brantley’s grounder was one of the hardest-hit balls of the game, and snuck through only because shortstop Marcus Semien was shifted toward second. Beyond that brief rally, though, Montas stifled the Astros all night, needing only 88 pitches in his 6 1/3 frames.
The strong pitching performance was a sight for sore eyes after Tuesday’s disastrous 9-1 loss. The A’s were trailing just one batter into that game and were effectively out of it by the fourth inning, while starter Marco Estrada pitched through a strained back that landed him on the injured list Wednesday afternoon.
“As a starting pitcher, when you take the mound, you’re pretty aware of the situation,” said manager Bob Melvin. “[The Astros have] beaten us four times in a row, and we gotta have somebody go out there and put up some zeroes. That’s exactly what [Montas] did. You can see his confidence every time he goes out there grow and grow, even to the point we ran him out there for the seventh.”
The A’s bullpen also got back on track after their own implosion on Sunday in Texas. In the seventh inning, Montas allowed a one-out single to Josh Reddick, for whom he was originally traded to the A’s back in 2016, and Lou Trivino came on in relief. Trivino stranded Reddick and then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, ultimately retiring all five batters he faced including three strikeouts.
“The curveball, the [called strike three to Tony Kemp to end the seventh], that’s a pitch last year he didn’t have,” said Melvin about Trivino’s dominant outing. “When he gets in a pitch-count battle with somebody, he’s got a third and fourth pitch that he can go to, and very few relievers have that.”
Blake Treinen pitched the ninth, facing the Astros for the first time since blowing a save against them on April 7. In that loss, he issued four walks, including one to force in the walk-off run. On Wednesday, he made things interesting once more by allowing a single and a walk to put the tying run in scoring position with one out. However, this time he induced a popup by Reddick and then blew away Robinson Chirinos with a 98 mph four-seamer to end the threat and seal the victory.
On the offensive side of the ball, the A’s lineup managed only four hits but did just enough to support their pitching staff. They got on the board early thanks to a quick rally in the second inning — Mark Canha doubled, and then Jurickson Profar followed with a smash past Bregman at third for another double to drive in Canha. Profar’s two-hit night got his batting average up to .200, the first time he’s reached the Mendoza Line since the third game of the season, and he’s now 10-for-28 (.357) over his last eight contests.
After the Astros knotted the score with Brantley’s RBI single in the sixth, Oakland immediately jumped back on top in the bottom of the inning. Chapman drilled a cutter from Houston starter Wade Miley, sending it 441 feet for a solo homer. It was the longest home run by the A’s this season, and at 111.5 mph off the bat, it also had the highest exit velocity of any batted ball by Oakland so far in 2019.
“That’s definitely our ballgame,” said Chapman of the complete team effort. “Good defense, home runs and that bullpen. Tip of the cap to Frankie Montas, who’s been going out there every single time, every start this season, and gave us a chance to win.”
The A’s, now back over .500 with an 11-10 record, have the day off Thursday before welcoming the Toronto Blue Jays to town for a weekend series. Aaron Brooks faces Marcus Stroman in the opener on Friday.