OAKLAND -- Everything is going to be all right. That’s the message from manager Dusty Baker, third baseman Alex Bregman and the rest of the Astros after they were swept by the A’s in three games, denying Houston a chance to clinch the American League West title at the Coliseum.
The Astros’ final road trip of the season came to a rocky ending Sunday afternoon, with the A’s celebrating a 4-3 walk-off win when Mark Canha clobbered a pitch from Ryan Pressly with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and clanked it off the left-field wall, sending Houston to its fourth consecutive loss as it heads home to finish the regular season.
"No, no concerns for us," said Bregman, who hit his 11th home run in the sixth inning to give Houston a 2-1 lead. "We’re gonna be fine. I promise. I promise we’re gonna look back and be fine. It’s just baseball. It’s a long season."
With the loss and the Mariners’ 5-1 win over the Angels, Houston’s lead in the AL West dropped to five games over Seattle with six games remaining. The Astros’ magic number to win the division remains two, meaning they can’t clinch until Tuesday. Houston is off Monday before opening a three-game series against the Rays at home.
"We’re due to get a whole bunch of breaks," Baker said. "Seems like whatever we did came out wrong. They got all the hits they needed. That’s a club that’s trying to hold on for dear life and believing they’re going to do it. This club doesn’t get down too much, doesn’t get down at all. I’m glad we've got an off-day tomorrow, but this was a tough series."
It would take a seismic collapse in the final six games for the Astros not to make the playoffs, but nailing down their fourth division title in five years has proven to be difficult.
The A’s clubbed them, 14-2, on Friday before consecutive walk-off wins Saturday and Sunday (the Astros are 18-19 in one-run games this season). Houston has scored eight runs during its four-game losing streak, during which it’s batting .160 with 15 walks and 35 strikeouts. The team ERA is 6.34, including 10.38 by the bullpen, which blew two saves in that span.
"It’s not like it should be a walk in the park," said pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who went four innings on Sunday in his return from the injured list. "They did the right things at the right time and we played a good game. We made some mistakes and something that’s a difference-maker. Nobody on our side is really panicking about this right now. We’re in a good spot."
There was no bigger mistake than the one committed by outfielder Jose Siri in the ninth inning Sunday with the game tied. Siri reached on a one-out single and then tried to score from first base on a single by Bregman, running through a stop sign by third-base coach Omar Lopez and getting thrown out at the plate to end the inning. Yordan Alvarez was standing on deck.
Lopez was waving Siri to third as approached the base but put his left hand into the air shortly before he reached the base. Siri slowed down initially as he approached third before making the turn and heading for home. He was thrown out by Tony Kemp on the relay.
"I never saw that, to be honest with you. I never saw the sign to stop," Siri said. "My initial thought was to stop at third. I knew what part of the lineup we had coming up. We had Yordan coming up and the meat of the order coming up. There was a moment, of course, when you have to touch third base and you have to lower your head for a second, so that might have been when I didn’t see it. But I never saw the stop sign."
Canha, before he played the role of bat-flipping hero, saw the entire play unfold before him from left field.
"It kind of scared the hell out of me when it happened," he said. "I took a peek as he was getting to third base and just saw the third-base coach holding him. Then I heard a bunch of commotion and was like, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?' Thank God Tony had the wherewithal to get the ball in quickly and he made a great throw and put it right on the money. That guy can fly. If he doesn’t make a perfect play on that one, that could have been a bad situation for us."