Bassitt regrets mistake to Altuve that costs A's

July 24th, 2019

HOUSTON -- Upon their arrival in Texas for their three-game series with the Astros, a few of the A's were vocal with their acknowledgement that the road to the division title, for better or worse, goes through Houston.

The A's, who lost 4-2 in the finale on Wednesday at Minute Maid Park, left town in only a slightly worse position than when they arrived. They lost one game in the American League West standings, dropping 7 1/2 games back after losing two of three to the division leaders, but their positioning near the top of the Wild Card standings remains unchanged.

It's still a little early to be checking the scores and standings on an everyday basis, but that's usually what draws the most attention when the top two teams in the division meet for a head-to-head matchup. In that respect, the A's were disappointed to leave town with just one win, but they were encouraged by how they responded to tough Houston pitching in the final two games of the series, including Justin Verlander’s 11-strikeout performance in the finale.

"There's a lot of baseball left," manager Bob Melvin said. "We've overcome some gaps before, but it's really not what we're looking at right now. We're just looking at trying to continue to play really well, as we have been. This trip was a tough trip, now that you look back at it. We went 3-4 which isn't great, but 4-3, we would have considered to be a good trip."

It could be viewed as a good trip anyway, considering the stressful nature of a couple of the games in Minnesota, how taxed the bullpen was after short outings by starting pitchers and the fact that they played nothing but first-place teams for a week straight.

And none of the challenges put them in any long-term jeopardy.

"It's disappointing, because we didn't win the series," starting pitcher said. "But this stretch of schedule -- we can't really get down on ourselves. Just have to grind through it. Lick your wounds and get back at it tomorrow kind of thing."

The A's loss on Wednesday was rather textbook. They received a solid outing from Bassitt, but they were stung by a couple of home runs by Houston hitters who have a long history of tormenting visiting pitchers.

Bassitt was steady through a six-inning performance that was marred by two isolated incidents: a two-run homer by George Springer in the third inning, and another two-run shot by Jose Altuve in the fifth.

Altuve's homer, hit off an 88 mph first-pitch cutter, traveled 428 feet and bounced off the batter's eye in the deepest part of center field.

Bassitt wasn't overly bothered by the Springer longball. The pitch to Altuve, however, the pitcher categorized as "stupid."

"My idea was to throw a cutter away and then a two-seam in," Bassitt said. "Looking back at it, knowing who he is, knowing how aggressive he is, throwing a get-me-over cutter is probably pretty stupid. He made me pay for it.”

Bassitt, who has a 3.17 ERA with 15 strikeouts over his past three starts, struck out the first five Astros batters he faced and retired seven in a row to start the game. But Houston began to chip away in the third inning. Robinson Chirinos doubled and scored on Springer's homer, and Altuve followed Springer's long ball with a base hit to center.

"After the [five] punchouts, I was saying, 'He's not going to punch out 27, is he?'" Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "That's not our norm. We couldn't hit his fastball. It was moving quite a bit."

Bassitt hit Chirinos with a pitch to open a fifth inning that included the Altuve homer, giving Houston a 4-1 advantage.

"I thought I pitched a pretty damn good game,” Bassitt said “And it's frustrating because it was two pitches. Two mistakes -- but [really], one mistake."