HOUSTON -- The A's winning streak against their American League West foes came to a screeching halt on Saturday night, ending with a clunker.
Right-hander Daniel Mengden was around for just 2 1/3 innings in an 11-0 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park. The bullpen fared no better, yielding four homers, and the offense was essentially absent, managing just three hits.
The A's, victorious in each of their previous six meetings with Houston, didn't even record their first hit against right-hander Lance McCullers until the sixth -- a Mark Canha single leading off the inning. By that time, the Astros had built a seven-run lead.
This wasn't the way Mengden drew up his homecoming. The Houston native, who was originally drafted by the Astros in 2014, put his first three batters on base, setting up back-to-back sacrifice flies. Mengden then fell behind Alex Bregman, 2-1, which would prove to be an ongoing trend, and Houston's third baseman smacked a two-out RBI double to cap the three-run first.
Mengden threw a first-pitch strike to just four of his 15 batters.
"For hitters, hitting in 2-0, 3-0, 2-1 counts is what they dream of, and that's what I gave them all night," he said. "Just didn't execute very well tonight and didn't get strike one."
The Astros kept at it in the second with assistance from A's shortstop Marcus Semien, whose fielding error led to an unearned run. Mengden, up to 44 pitches by the time he returned for the third, was lifted after allowing consecutive one-out singles, exiting at 57 pitches.
"Just didn't have his best command today," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Ball was up in the zone early on and had trouble getting ahead, and they put some good swings on him. We were trying to cut it off at the pass with the lefties down at the bottom, and that didn't work."
Houston struck for a third sac fly against lefty Danny Coulombe, who also surrendered a two-run homer to Derek Fisher in the fourth. Right-hander Wilmer Font, making his A's debut, was tagged for three home runs, bringing his total to eight in 12 1/3 innings this season. George Springer and Jose Altuve teamed up for back-to-back shots in the sixth, and Marwin Gonzalez homered in the seventh.
Right-hander Emilio Pagan, the A's sixth pitcher of the night, issued a bases-loaded walk to Bregman in the eighth, needing 30 pitches to get through the frame -- which featured a fourth hit from Altuve, who outhit the A's.
Mengden had allowed just one run in each of his previous two starts across 14 1/3 innings, and he had completed at least five innings in each of his first five tries. His ERA moved from 3.86 to 4.68 after Saturday's outing.
"I want to be out there as long as I can, get my 100 pitches and give us a quality start and a chance to win," Mengden said. "And today I put us in a hole early, and if you do that against a good team, it's not very good. It didn't matter what team was out there today. I was falling behind and having to throw heaters in fastball counts and left some pitches up. That's just a recipe for disaster."
After Lou Trivino worked a perfect fourth inning, Chris Hatcher was given the ball for the fifth and secured two outs before walking three in a row. Hatcher had not issued a walk in his first eight appearances (6 1/3 innings) this season. He buckled down to strike out Fisher to end the threat.
HE SAID IT
"That looks to be his Achilles' heel. He's got a power arm and gets some strikeouts, but gotta get the ball down, gotta get ahead of the count." -- Melvin, on Font
Right-hander Trevor Cahill, who is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts for the A's, will be back on the bump for Sunday's 11:10 a.m. PT series finale against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Cahill received a no-decision against the Rangers on Monday, allowing three runs on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts across five innings. Houston will counter with right-hander Gerrit Cole, who is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA.