The Oakland Athletics used a four-run sixth inning Saturday to deal the Astros their fourth consecutive defeat. It was the second straight night that a left-handed reliever came out of the Astros bullpen with catastrophic results. An untimely error by a Houston shortstop helped to open the flood gates in what seemed like a case of deja vu for Astros fans.
Friday night Marwin Gonzalez’s miscue with Xavier Cedeno on the mound helped the A’s open up a big lead. Saturday night it was Ronny Cedeno‘s error that added a couple of unearned runs to Bud Norris‘ pitching line. Wesley Wrightcame out of the ‘pen to relieve Norris after the Astros starter gave everything he had in a gutsy 122-pitch outing. With the score tied at three, Wright allowed consecutive run-scoring singles to the A’s number eight and nine hitters, giving Oakland a 5-3 lead.
Norris got off to a great start, retiring the first nine Oakland batters of the game. Coco Crisp led off the fourth inning with a pop fly that the wind pushed into the Crawford boxes to give the A’s a 1-0 lead. Norris was mixing up his pitches nicely, including an occasional changeup that kept the Athletics guessing. But the A’s patience at the plate would eventually pay off as the high pitch count forced Norris from the game after 5 & 2/3 innings.
Dallas Keuchel, who was called up prior to the game to replace the injured Travis Blackley, pitched the final three innings of the game. Keuchel’s only hiccup was a solo homer by Seth Smith. Blackley, acquired from the A’s only yesterday, strained his shoulder throwing his first bullpen session and was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
The big news of the night was the fact that Astros hitters struck out only four times. The absence of Brett Wallace from the lineup seemed to have a nice effect. Jason Castro provided the offense with a 3-run homer to the Crawford Boxes in the fourth inning. Castro’s dinger culminated a 2-out rally started by singles from Carlos Pena and Justin Maxwell.