The Astros returned home from a long road trip on Monday to face off against the Oakland Athletics. The pitching match-up featured Jeff Samardzija for the A’s versus Scott Feldman on the hill for the Astros. The A’s came into this series one game back in the American League West, allowing the Astros an opportunity to play spoiler.
Spoiler was not the case for the Astros on this evening, as the bats continued to look subpar. Is it the approach, is it the personnel, or is Samardzija that good? I would say it is a combination of all the factors, as the Astros looked mystified on this Monday evening.
Both pitchers came out in the early innings looking strong, but that was until the third inning. A pair of doubles by Erik Sogard and Stephen Vogt plated a run in the top half of the inning. Unfortunately for the Astros the run was aided by a poor rundown scenario, in which Matt Dominguez unloaded a throw too soon. By throwing too soon and avoiding textbook baseball, a back runner got into second base via the fielders choice.
The fourth inning proved to be more unkind to Feldman, allowing a two run shot into the right field stands to Josh Reddick. Brandon Moss had singled prior. The A’s took a 3-0 lead into the bottom half of the inning. The Astros at bats suffered greatly through the first five innings, only compiling three hits. Samardzija had his way often, rushing his fastball as high as 96 miles per hour. Control was the key however for Samardzija, pounding the strike zone and not giving the Astros a chance to ever get ahead in the count.
Things did not get much better in the latter innings, and frankly this game lacked a lot of action for the offensive enthusiasts. The Astros had struck out seven times, while amounting four hits on no runs through seven innings. Checking in to pitch for the Astros in the eighth inning was Josh Fields. Fields retired the A’s in order.
Just when you thought the Astros were down for the count, Jose Altuve had a weak dribbler to Sogard at second. Altuve with his great speed beat out the play to extend the inning. Following Altuve, Carter hit an opposite field shot into the first row of the right field stands. It was his 31st home run of the season, and made this a game as the Astros now trailed 3-2. Dexter Fowler flied out to end the inning.
Tony Sipp came in to pitch in the top half of the ninth and struggled mightily. He walked the bases loaded with nobody out. Many of his pitches were nowhere near the strike zone. Coco Crisp was up next and he was also walked, to plate the fourth run for the Athletics. Jose Veras checked in to attempt to clean up the inning. Veras was able to retire Alberto Callaspo on a fly out to Robbie Grossman in left, but the RBI machine Josh Donaldson cashed in. Donaldson hit a tapper down the third base line. With the corners in it became a two run double making the game 6-2. The damage continued with Derek Norris lacing a two run double to the right side, charging four runs to Sipp. One run was charged to Veras and the inning ended with the score 8-2.
The Astros added some excitement versus pitcher Eric O’Flaherty in the bottom half of the ninth. Jake Marisnick laced a double into the right field corner, followed by a one base error getting him to third. Jon Singleton followed with walk. However Matt Dominguez continued his dismal season with a game ending double play.
All and all the game offered nothing positive for the Astros. Horrible at bats, horrible fundamentals, and I suppose a silver lining in a good start by Feldman. This team has improved this year, yet they leave a lot to be desired if Jeff Luhnow wants us to believe the team is headed in the right direction. There is no fix for the holes for the massive problems this team is faced with, but a message may be the start. The message I would deliver? Matt Dominguez does not deserve another at bat this season at the Major League level. Send him to AAA, don’t call him up for September, try again next year.