The Astros’ lost weekend in Oakland ended in ugly fashion Sunday afternoon with a 7-2 loss at the Coliseum that was marred by a benches-clearing incident in the seventh inning.
A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano, after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning, exchanged words with Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron at first base and charged the Astros dugout, sparking a brief fracas that came a half-inning after Houston manager Dusty Baker had been ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
The Astros didn’t show as much fight between the lines in getting swept by the A’s for their fifth consecutive loss, dropping them to 6-9 at the one-quarter mark of the 60-game season. The Astros fell into third place in the AL West, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place A’s.
“It’s a long ways from spiraling out of control,” Baker said. “We’re not playing good baseball and we ran up against a team that was hot. They were probably the hottest team in baseball. We ran across some real good pitching the last three days. We have to go home and regroup and start all over again.”
A season ravaged by injuries to the pitching staff and some early-season struggles at the plate by key players like George Springer (.182 batting average), Alex Bregman (.219) and Jose Altuve (.182) have the Astros reeling as they head to Houston for an eight-game homestand. Springer missed the A’s series with a wrist strain.
“It’s definitely a tough spot for us right now,” veteran outfielder Josh Reddick said. “We really haven’t hit our stride yet this year. Our offense is also struggling. We’re trying to work around a lot of these injures we have where our pitching staff has taken a hit. That can’t be a crutch we can lean on right now. We don’t have George Springer, and that hurts us. He’s a big spark in this lineup.”
The Astros hit .193 on their five-game losing streak, averaging 3.2 runs per game. On the mound during that stretch, they have posted a 6.04 team ERA, including a 7.20 ERA by a bullpen that has nine rookie pitchers because of injuries to the rotation and bullpen.
“A lot of the guys, myself included, have to step up and start driving in some runs and giving the pitching staff a break,” Reddick said. “We need to have a blowout game where we give those guys a break and take the pressure off, so to speak.”
Starter Cristian Javier, one of the Astros’ young pitchers making his MLB debut this year, had his first poor outing in the big leagues, allowing five runs in three innings. All of the runs scored on homers -- Robbie Grossman’s solo shot in the second, a three-run homer by Matt Olson in the third, which was followed by a Matt Chapman blast that made it 5-0.
“My stuff wasn’t that bad today,” Javier said. “Just a couple of times that didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted to.”
Yuli Gurriel hit a two-run homer for the Astros in the fourth to cut the lead to 5-2.
After the Astros stranded the bases loaded in the sixth, Baker was ejected in the seventh for arguing balls and strikes.
In the bottom of the seventh, rookie Humberto Castellanos hit Laureano in the middle of the back with a 3-2 breaking pitch. Laureano, who was traded from the Astros in 2017, gestured toward Castellanos and exchanged words with him as he walked to first base. While Laureano was standing at first, he argued with Cintron and then charged the dugout and was tackled by Astros catcher Dustin Garneau. Laureano and A’s catcher Austin Allen were ejected.
“We’re all men out there with high pride and anxiety and everything else,” Baker said. “These things happen when you’re on a ball field. Everybody wants you to just control your temper, which you should, but sometimes things flare out of control.”