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Astros jump out hot, but 'pen falters in loss

Oakland scores six unanswered runs to take third of four games in Houston
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't overcome their bullpen woes on Thursday afternoon.

Two days after coughing up a late four-run lead -- and rallying to win in the 11th inning -- the Astros squandered another four-run cushion to the A's, who stole a 6-4 win to take three of four from the defending champions at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros couldn't overcome their bullpen woes on Thursday afternoon.

Two days after coughing up a late four-run lead -- and rallying to win in the 11th inning -- the Astros squandered another four-run cushion to the A's, who stole a 6-4 win to take three of four from the defending champions at Minute Maid Park.

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"Pretty terrible," said Astros All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman of the series. "They're a good team. They battled. There's no easy outs in that lineup, and they threw the ball extremely well."

The Astros rolled into the series having won 23 of 29 contests and were nearly swept in four games were it not for Tuesday's extra-inning rally. 

"The last four games stunk," Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said. "I'll tell you that straight up. They're playing really good baseball. They've got a good, young core over there that can play really well and they can put some at-bats together, and we saw that this series."

Astros reliever Chris Devenski gave up three runs in the eighth inning to allow the A's to wipe out a 4-3 deficit. Devenski allowed the first three Oakland batters he faced to reach base, with Matt Chapman driving in Khris Davis to tie the game and Mark Canha hitting a two-run single into the left-field corner to put the A's ahead, 6-4.

"Both innings they scored their most runs, they did something positive the first three at-bats of the inning, and that does put you in a ton of stress and puts them in control of the inning," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "They didn't chase, and our guys had a hard time finishing some at-bats. We saw some high pitch counts and saw some mismatches that normally we win that we didn't."

A two-run double by Bregman in the third inning and a two-run homer by Tony Kemp in the fourth staked the Astros and starting pitcher Charlie Morton to a 4-0 lead.

Video: OAK@HOU: Kemp lifts a 2-run homer to left in the 4th

"I thought the ball was going to go foul right there but it stayed true as possible," said Kemp, whose 334-foot homer was the fourth-shortest home run by an Astros player at Minute Maid Park since 2015. "It snuck right there into the Crawford Boxes, and I took advantage of the field right there."

Morton cruised through four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth when the first three batters reached to load the bases. Nick Martini sliced the Astros' lead to 4-2 with a two-run double, and Stephen Piscotty singled home Jonathan Lucroy to cut the lead to 4-3.

Video: OAK@HOU: Piscotty plates Lucroy with an infield knock

"We knew coming in they were playing well, and we see why," Hinch said. "They did a lot more right than we did during the series and they completed games. Their at-bats were exceptional this series. They made us work and kind of wore us out, the whole pitching staff, and just came out with some really big at-bats when they needed to. We were disappointed we lost the series, but we get onto the next one. We got outplayed this series."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Morton, with a 4-0 lead in the fifth, gave up singles to Chad Pinder and Canha to start the inning before walking Lucroy to load the bases with no outs. Martini hit a long fly ball to split the gap in right-center to score a pair and get the A's back in the game.

Video: OAK@HOU: Martini skies a 2-run double to center

"I've got a four-run lead and just have to get an out, even if it's a fly ball, sac fly or whatever," Morton said. "I think that was the biggest thing is to get an out, some weak contact. I threw a pitch at the knees or below the knees on the black down and away and he hits a fly ball to center field to score two runs." 

SOUND SMART
Bregman is the fourth player in club history to have 30 doubles before the All-Star break and also the third player in team history to have at least 50 extra-base hits before the season's halfway point.

HE SAID IT
"We're not looking in the rearview mirror for anybody, but I'll tell you we are well aware of the quality of our division. It's been underrated the entire season. People talk about the East all the time. They should talk about the West a little bit more because there's some teams that can really beat you." -- Hinch, on the American League West

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Hinch reviewed Canha's game-winning hit in the eighth inning, hoping the replay showed the ball landed foul in the left-field corner. After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official could not definitively determine that the ball landed in foul territory. The call stood as ruled.

Video: OAK@HOU: Canha's go-ahead 2-run single stands in 8th

"It was a little bit of a Hail Mary, hoping somehow, someway it was going to [overturned]," Hinch said. "We had no idea. We were throwing it up in the air and hoping something went our way."

UP NEXT
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (6-8, 3.95 ERA) takes the mound for the Astros when they open a three-game series against the Tigers at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday at Minute Maid Park. Keuchel has thrown seven innings each of his past two starts, allowing just three earned runs over that span. Former Astro Mike Fiers will start for Detroit.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

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