OAKLAND -- Not even a flurry of great defensive plays in the late innings by the Astros to protect a one-run lead -- including a critical one in the ninth that was overturned following replay review -- were enough to thwart the magic of the A's.
Matt Olson capped a dramatic night at Oakland Coliseum by blasting a 10th-inning walk-off homer off reliever Tony Sipp -- the first homer he's allowed this year -- to send the A's to a 4-3 win Friday, getting them to within one game of the first-place Astros.
"That game could have easily gone in our direction," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We felt pretty good about where we were at. We got out of some big jams and had a couple of opportunities we didn't capitalize on. You don't have to be perfect to win, but you've to get your 27 outs. Even more tonight with the extra innings. Tough loss."
The A's tied the game at 3 in the ninth against Astros closer Hector Rondon after they challenged a call at the plate and got it overturned.
With pinch-runner Ramon Laureano at first base and one out, Nick Martini hit a double to the wall in right field. Laureano tried to score with a head-first slide and was called out at the plate following an amazing relay throw from shortstop Carlos Correa, but the A's challenged and the call was overturned after a lengthy review.
"Everything I saw, he was out," said Astros right fielder Josh Reddick, who threw the ball to Correa. "There was zero angle that showed him being safe and getting in there. I have no idea what they saw there. Everybody around here thinks they made the wrong call."
Solo homers by Alex Bregman in the fourth inning and Martin Maldonado in the fifth gave the Astros a 2-0 lead. Charlie Morton sailed through four innings for Houston, allowing one walk and one hit, before a sloppy defensive fifth inning led to the A's pushing across a couple of runs, one of which was unearned because of a throwing error by Correa.
"Charlie was good until the very end," Hinch said. "They made him work the last two innings. He looked a little bit out of sync in the fourth and fifth innings, which is why I took him out of the game. To keep the game 2-2 in the fifth was huge for us. He had to make some pitches after a lot of stress with some base runners on base and some bad luck and some bad decisions in the field."
A's reliever Lou Trivino walked a pair of batters in the sixth, and Reddick made him pay for it when he shot a single to left field to score Marwin Gonzalez from second to put the Astros ahead, 3-2. Relievers Collin McHugh and Roberto Osuna both stranded two runners apiece, but the A's came up with some magic in the ninth and 10th.
"Our bullpen pitched well enough to close out this win," Hinch said. "Got a little unlucky on the placement of the double [by Martini], the play at home plate and one 3-2 pitch and we go home on the losing end of things."
Bregman extended his road on-base streak to 37 games, which is the longest active streak in the Majors and the fourth-longest in Astros history.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Correa's relay throw wasn't even the best play he made in the ninth inning. He began the inning by making a diving stop of a Mark Canha grounder, getting to his feet and firing to first base to retire him for the first out. Bregman made a dazzling play on a backhanded stop of a Marcus Semien grounder to third to end the eighth inning.
HE SAID IT
"It's upsetting. It's upsetting when a call like that controls everything and ends up being a huge factor for us in the game." -- Reddick
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros believed they had cut down the tying run at the plate in the ninth following the spectacular relay throw from Correa, and their opinion didn't change following the replay review. Laureano was originally called out at the plate on the tag by Maldonado, but the umpires overturned the call following a 3-minute, 6-second review. Hinch immediately went to the mound for clarification on whether the umpires had ruled Maldonado blocked the plate, Bregman had obstructed Laureano rounding third or it was a simple safe-out call. "From my vantage point, I'm not going to see an angle that shows his hand on the the plate and the tag not on him," Hinch said. "I'm sure if they look at the same replay, they look at it differently. I don't see the angle. I'm not privy what they saw to overturn it. They gave us the rule and they were back in the game."
Maldonado, the Gold Glove catcher, wasn't sure if his tag was in time.
"I just tried to put the tag on as quickly as I can," he said. "I knew it was going to be a bang-bang play. It was really hard for me to just try to catch the ball. I had no feeling where he was. I just tried to put the tag on him as quickly as possible."
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (9-9, 3.43 ERA) will start for the Astros in Saturday's 3:05 p.m. CT game against the A's at Oakland Coliseum. The lefty has been the Astros' best starting pitcher the last two months, going 6-1 with a 2.19 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 11 starts since June 16. Right-hander Trevor Cahill (4-2, 3.39 ERA) will start for Oakland.