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Astros can't turn it up to 11 vs. A's Montas

@goodforball
April 18, 2019

OAKLAND -- Though the Astros’ 10-game winning streak ended with Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the A’s, Houston forced Oakland to deliver virtually its best effort to emerge triumphant. Though neither of Houston’s elite starters, Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole, were on the mound, Astros left-hander Wade Miley still limited

OAKLAND -- Though the Astros’ 10-game winning streak ended with Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the A’s, Houston forced Oakland to deliver virtually its best effort to emerge triumphant.

Though neither of Houston’s elite starters, Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole, were on the mound, Astros left-hander Wade Miley still limited Oakland to four hits. However, the final hit was delivered by Matt Chapman, Oakland’s budding star, who deposited his sixth homer of the season into the left-field seats to break a 1-1 tie leading off the bottom of the sixth inning.

“He’s one of the more promising young players in the league,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said of the 26-year-old third baseman.

The same could be said of A’s starter Frankie Montas, who’s also 26. The right-hander pitched adequately in an April 5 outing against the Astros, yielding two runs and seven hits in five innings. So he altered his pitching pattern slightly, throwing more four-seam fastballs and sliders than usual. According to Statcast, Montas throws his sinker 31.6 percent of the time and his slider 24.1 percent of the time. Against the Astros this time, Montas most frequently used his four-seam fastball -- 32 of them -- compared to 27 sliders.

The result was pronounced. Montas manacled the Astros, who averaged six runs per game during their winning streak. Wednesday, he permitted one run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings while striking out six.

“In my at-bats, it seemed like he was using more slider than splitter,” said Astros right fielder Josh Reddick, who went 1-for-3 off Montas. “I think he had a good game plan with myself, individually, because I was so focused on the splitter that I really didn’t think about him throwing slider.”

A thoroughly impressed Hinch said of Montas, “He really didn’t concede much of anything. His fastball was good, his breaking ball was good, he threw a split -- his stuff was overpowering tonight.”

On many days, Miley’s effort would have delivered a victory. But, as Hinch said, “Given how [Montas] was throwing, he didn’t have much of a prayer at all.”

Those scant hopes vanished when Chapman connected.

“It caught too much of the plate,” said Miley (1-2). “The cutter just didn’t get in there. I kind of made it a little lazy breaking ball, a lazy cutter, and he crushed it.”

There were no crushed hopes, egos or feelings among the Astros (12-6), whose winning propelled them past Seattle into first place in the American League West.

“Any time you win 10 in a row, it’s something special,” Reddick said. “It’s a lot of fun, because you come in here every day and you know you’re going to win. You just have all the confidence in the world. We knew it was going to end at some point.”

Following Thursday’s scheduled off-day, the Astros will open a three-game series in Arlington against the Rangers, who took two of three from them April 1-3.

“We’ll hit the reset button tomorrow, come back out [Friday] and hopefully get some revenge on those Rangers,” Reddick said.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.