Astros can't solve A's, take first sweep of '22

July 28th, 2022

OAKLAND -- The Astros came to the Bay Area on a roll, having won five straight to extend their lead in the American League West to 13 games over the second-place Mariners.

That momentum came to a sudden halt as the A's stunned the Astros over three games, culminating in a 4-2 loss in Wednesday afternoon's series finale at the Oakland Coliseum. As a result, Houston was swept for the first time in the 2022 campaign.

After sweeping both the MLB-leading Yankees in a doubleheader and the surging Mariners in three games, it was nearly unthinkable that the Astros would be swept for the first time this season by the A's, who trail them by 27 games in the AL West and lead the AL in losses.

"Each series is different, and most of it depends on who's pitching against you," manager Dusty Baker said. "They shut us down, simple."

Oakland pitchers effectively quieted Houston's offense this series, holding one of the most potent lineups in baseball to a combined 10 runs on 19 hits over the three games. The Astros still made some noise -- on Wednesday, Yordan Alvarez hit an absolute bomb off A's starter Cole Irvin, who said it was "a fun one to watch" after the fact -- but ultimately could not string enough hits together to put themselves over the top.

It didn't help matters that the Astros weren't able to recover from falling behind early in each game. That proved true again on Wednesday, as starting pitcher Cristian Javier allowed back-to-back home runs to Stephen Vogt and Stephen Piscotty in the second inning. Javier made it through three more innings and was on the hook for three runs, but that was enough to sink the team.

What's more is that Javier did not necessarily feel like he pitched badly. But the A's were able to do game-altering damage on just a few pitches.

"That's where the pitch was supposed to be," Javier said via team interpreter Jenloy Herrera, discussing the back-to-back home runs. "I think they just made the adjustment."

Entering this series, Houston was one of the last few clubs that had not been swept in a series of three or more games this season. It took until the 99th game of the regular season for an opposing team to capture a sweep against the Astros.

That's the second-longest stretch to open a season without being swept in franchise history, trailing only 2018. That year, no team completed a sweep against the Astros until the 107th game -- and by chance, that sweep also came at the hands of the last-place team in the AL West, the Rangers.

"I'm not surprised that it took this long to happen," Alvarez said via Herrera. "There's things that happen in baseball, but like I said, we didn't play to the capacity that we're capable of playing, and unfortunately, [the A's] happened to play better."

Prior to this series, you have to go back to Sept. 24-26, 2021, to find a series where the Astros were swept, which also came against the A’s.

It's not the longest stretch a team has ever gone without being swept -- that belongs to the Dodgers, who played 238 regular-season games without being swept from April 11, 2019, to May 5, 2021 -- but it's still better than most teams have done in recent memory.

Take it from Baker -- the Astros underperformed this series, and they're not happy about it. But don't let it detract from the big picture, in which Houston remains one of the leading clubs in the Majors. One bad series does not erase the overall strong season, as long as the team can get back to its winning ways.

"It's discouraging, but it's not concerning. Every team in America is going to lose three in a row, it just didn't happen here in a while," Baker said. "You don't want panic to set in on three games.

"I don't like it, you don't like it, nobody likes it -- but you've got to wear it and you've got to live with it."