HOUSTON -- The double that Astros closer Roberto Osuna allowed in the ninth inning Tuesday night to Nick Martini, which gave the A's the lead, wasn't the at-bat that bothered him the most. That came two batters earlier, when Osuna walked Ramon Laureano on four pitches, setting him up to score the go-ahead run.
In a game where neither starting pitcher was able to finish the fifth inning, two of the best bullpens in baseball were pressed to early duty, and it was the Astros' bullpen that blinked first in a 4-3 loss to the A's at Minute Maid Park.
"That never happens in the past, to walk a guy with four straight balls like that," Osuna said. "It [stinks], man."
The loss snapped the Astros' six-game winning streak and cut their lead in the American League West division to 1 1/2 games over Oakland. Wednesday will be the final head-to-head meeting of the season between the division front-runners.
"Their back end [of the bullpen] is as good as anybody's, and they get the lead and they come in and are tough to hit," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "They don't win if they don't score, and three of their four runs [reached on a] walk or hit by pitch, so they took advantage of their opportunities."
In the third, Astros starter Charlie Morton walked Jed Lowrie with two outs and then hit Khris Davis with a pitch before Matt Olson clubbed a 399-foot homer to right that put Oakland up, 3-1. The walk to Lowrie came after he was down 0-2 in the count.
"Two walks I'm going to go home remembering are the walk to Lowrie after an 0-2 count, which led to a hit by pitch, which led to a hanging breaking ball for a homer, and the walk to Laureano in the last inning," Hinch said. "That will eat at us a little bit."
Astros relievers Will Harris, Thomas Pressly and Hector Rondon combined to retire 10 of 11 batters before Osuna walked Laureano with one out in the ninth and allowed him to score on Martini's double.
"I was trying to go up and in and I missed right in the middle," Osuna said of Martini's hit. "That happens. That's baseball. The only thing I'm really disappointed in is that walk."
The Astros, who banged out 16 hits in Monday's 11-4 win, were held to six hits Tuesday, including five singles. Still, they had their chances. Alex Bregman's bases-loaded double in the fifth tied the game at 3 and sent A's starter Edwin Jackson packing, but the A's bullpen allowed two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
"They've got a really good staff and we have to show up [Wednesday] ready to go," Bregman said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Astros center fielder George Springer, who made not just one but two great diving catches earlier in the game, gambled on the arm of Laureano in center field in the eighth. Springer led off the inning with a single against Jeurys Familia and tried to take third on a single by Bregman and was thrown out by Laureano. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both struck out to strand Bregman at second base.
"It's aggressive," Hinch said. "Obviously, making the first out is not ideal. Putting pressure on a young outfielder is what he was going after. An off throw and it's second and third with nobody out. A throw on the money, like he did, and it's runner on second and one out. Obviously, there's the old adage you don't make the first out at third base. I get it. The results would tell you to be a little bit cautious there, but I also know facing Familia, it's hard to score. You have to create your own opportunities against a guy like Familia. Gray area there."
Bregman, who leads the AL with 42 doubles, has gone nine consecutive games and 38 at-bats in a row without striking out.
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (10-10, 3.54 ERA) starts for the Astros in Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. CT series finale against the A's at Minute Maid Park. He is 7-2 with a 2.61 ERA in his last 13 starts (Houston is 9-4 in those games). Right-hander Trevor Cahill (5-3, 3.44) will start for Oakland.