Nobody expected Ramon Laureano or Nick Martini’s names to come up when discussing the Oakland Athletics beyond spring training, but the two were key contributors in Tuesday’s exhilarating 4-3 win over the Houston Astros.
Laureano kept the game tied with a remarkable throw in the eighth inning and Martini’s ground-rule double provided the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth as the A’s drew within a game and a half of the AL West lead.
With George Springer on first after a single to lead off the bottom of the eighth, Alex Bregman singled up the middle, and Laureano cut down Springer in an attempt to go from first to third for the inning’s first out. That momentum shift helped Jeurys Familia settle down, as he struck out both Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to end the inning.
Facing Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth, Laureano walked with one out and Jonathan Lucroy followed by sneaking a single past Altuve. That brought up Martini, who broke a 2-for-22 streak by sending a double to the warning track in left-center to put Oakland (80-53) ahead. The double went over the wall, forcing Lucroy to stop at third, but the A’s were on top, and though they wouldn’t be able to add on further, it was more than enough for Blake Treinen, who pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth for his 33rd save.
Martini’s double was the first time the A’s had scored since Matt Olson’s three-run homer in the top of the third, and Lucroy’s single was their first hit since Laureano’s single in the fourth. They did chase Houston starter Charlie Morton after 4 2/3 innings, but only had one baserunner against Will Harris, Ryan Pressly and Hector Rondon over the four ensuing frames.
Oakland starter Edwin Jackson was sharp over his first four innings but couldn’t escape the fifth. Tyler White led off with a single, and though Matt Chapman robbed Yuli Gurriel with a leaping catch, Josh Reddick singled to put two men on. Jackson struck out Martin Maldonado, who’s been a thorn in Oakland’s side, but walked Springer and allowed a two-run double to Bregman to tie the game.
Oakland’s bullpen matched the Astros (81-51) from there, with Shawn Kelley getting an Altuve groundout to end the fifth and taking care of the sixth in order. Fernando Rodney took care of the seventh and, with the help of Laureano’s throw, Familia escaped the eighth without damage.