BY RYAN LEONG
The A’s might not be going to the playoffs but the next best thing is to play spoiler to those who want to play baseball in October.
After years of beating up on the Astros when the Athletics were headed to three straight postseason appearances including division titles in 2012 and 2013, the tables have turned. The Astros had a 10-game win streak at the Coliseum which the A’s snapped with their 9-8 win on Friday thanks to a grand slam by Marcus Semien to erase a four-run deficit. Oakland won the game in the bottom of the ninth after trailing by a run. Thanks to a game-tying homer from Boog Powell and the game-winning single by Jed Lowrie against Houston closer Ken Giles, the A’s were able to take that momentum into Saturday’s doubleheader.
The first game of the twin-bill was won by the A’s thanks largely in part to some terrible pitching by the Astros. Houston issued 13 walks, five of which were walks with the bases loaded. Offensively with the bat, the A’s got a two-run single from Khris Davis while Powell also connected with a run-scoring hit and an RBI triple from Matt Chapman. Davis’ hit gave him 101 RBI for the season. Daniel Gossett (4-8) pitched six strong innings, giving up only five hits and a run while striking out seven to pick up the win.
In the nightcap, the A’s gave the ball to colorful righty Daniel Mengden who was once drafted by the Astros. He was traded to the A’s in exchange for Scott Kazmir and one of the reasons was because Houston didn’t care for his double overhand windup motion. The A’s embraced it and his handlebar mustache congering up memories of Rollie Fingers and the late Jim “Catfish” Hunter whose delivery is surprisingly similar.
Mengden has spent most of 2017 injured and in the minors. After surgery on his right foot before the start of spring training, he spent significant time with Triple A-Nashville before making two starts on May 29 and June 3. He kept the A’s in the game with six innings of five hit ball. He gave up a two run home run to Jose Altuve and an RBI single to former Athletic Josh Reddick.
Tied at 4-4 in the seventh, Chad Pinder hit the first of two home runs. Powell added a two-run single, a sacrifice fly, and had three RBI. Pinder added a three-run blast in the eighth and finished with four runs batted in. Rookie Matt Olson hit a two-run homer and the A’s were victorious 11-4 scoring 11 runs in both game while winning the first three games of the series.
While the Astros had the best record in the American League coming into Oakland, the A’s have a great chance at sweeping the four game set. Coupled with the Indians 17-game win streak, Houston has now fallen into a tie with Cleveland and will be facing some pressure to maintain their season long overall first place standing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“It was a fun day for everybody,” Manager Bob Melvin said. “I mean basically almost everybody got to play and when you score a lot of runs you get a lot of hits, there’s a lot of enthusiasm involved and we did it in both games. Guys are feeling pretty good for what was a pretty long day especially for a few of them who played both games.”
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.