BY STEVEN LUKE
Matched up head-to-head with one of the premier pitchers in the American League, Daniel Mengden did everything in his power to keep his team in the game, matching zeroes with Gerrit Cole until the Houston hurler gave up the first run of the game in the sixth. The day would belong to Cole and the Astros though, as Mengden gave up back-to-back home runs with two outs in the top of the seventh. The Astros added to their lead in the eighth and held on to win 4-1 to sweep the series. It was the first time this season the A’s have been swept.
For 6 2/3 innings Mengden was cruising. He struck out four Astros, gave up only four hits and did not issue a walk before giving up the two jacks. “He pitched great,” Manager Bob Melvin said about Mengden. “In a game like that where you have very little room for error one or two swings can beat you and that’s what happened. He was cruising along nicely, though, against a really good lineup.”
It was a similar lineup to the one Mengden faced in Houston two weeks ago that roughed him up for five runs, four earned, in just 2 1/3 innings. Mengden said the change was simply getting the first pitch in for a strike. “I just didn’t throw strikes (in Houston),” Mengden said. “Here I got strike one and I stayed aggressive and stayed the aggressor, and in Houston I just fell behind and got in trouble.”
The first home run came off of the bat of former A’s draft pick Max Stassi to tie the game and was a no doubter above the State Farm flag in the right field bleachers. Stassi’s home run was a bomb, but Derek Fisher’s (no, not the Fisher of Los Angeles Lakers fame) was a shot into an area where people are not supposed to be able hit home runs in the seats above the suites in center field. It was measured at 447 feet, but was destined to go much further if Mount Davis wasn’t in the way.
On the other side of the mound Cole followed up a masterpiece in his last outing (complete game shutout with 16 K’s while only allowing one hit) with another solid performance, pitching six innings of one run ball with nine strikeouts while allowing only four hits and three walks.
“Their guy today (Cole) he’s throwing 98 up in the zone and getting it called all day. It’s tough to chase him up there,” Melvin said. “Then when he’s getting strikes up there he’s double tough. He’s a four pitch guy and throws 98 miles per hour. They’ve got a pretty good rotation.”
Houston scored in the following inning against A’s reliever Yusmeiro Petit, but pitching was not the issue for Oakland. What plagued the A’s was a diminishment in power. Over the three game series with the Astros the A’s failed to hit a home run, and during Wednesday’s game they frequently hit balls that were caught at or near the warning track.
There wasn’t much for A’s fans to be happy about in the game, but one thing they could enjoy was the Oakland debut of center fielder Dustin Fowler. Fowler was called up before the game to replace Trevor Cahill on the roster who went on the disabled list with a right elbow impingement.
Fowler made his major league debut early in the 2017 season as a member of the New York Yankees, but injured his knee running into a wall while tracking a fly ball and never got his first big league at bat. Melvin made sure he got Fowler’s first at bat out of the way by pinch hitting him in the seventh inning for Mark Canha.
“It was good (to get the first at bat),” Fowler said. “It was kind of a nice way to do it. Just kind of get out there and get it out of the way really quick.” Fowler found out that he would be getting called up around midnight the night before and took an 8 a.m. flight to Oakland. Now he will go on the road with the team to face the team he made his debut with and possibly make his first start in green and gold against Sonny Gray, the player he was traded for.
“It’s just a perfect story. The guy I got traded for, getting to face him,” Fowler said. “It’ll be fun. It’ll be nice to be in New York and play in front of that crowd and a bunch of guys I know. It’ll be exciting and I’m ready to get there.”
The A’s will travel tomorrow to New York and face their former ace Gray (2-2, 6.00) on Friday. The A’s have not yet announced their starting pitcher for the opener.
Game Notes: Houston’s Jose Altuve added three hits to his season total and now leads the Majors with 52 hits in just 39 games.
Cole’s nine strikeouts give him 86 on the season, retaking the Major League lead in that category from Max Scherzer.
George Springer has hit safely in all six games against the A’s this season including a six hit game Monday night.