HOUSTON -- A game that began with the starting pitchers from both teams mowing through the lineups ended up as a blowout loss for the Astros, who dropped an 8-1 decision to the surging Athletics on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.The Astros have lost three of their past four
HOUSTON -- A game that began with the starting pitchers from both teams mowing through the lineups ended up as a blowout loss for the Astros, who dropped an 8-1 decision to the surging Athletics on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have lost three of their past four games. The homestand began with a series loss to the Angels, another division rival.
Dallas Keuchel, who retired the first 13 A's batters, yielded six runs over seven innings. He also doubled the number of home runs he has allowed this season in this single outing. Keuchel had given up three on the year entering this start, and he allowed three to the A's: a solo shot by Matt Chapman in the fifth, a two-run homer by Chad Pinder in the sixth and Mark Canha's two-run long ball in the seventh, Keuchel's final inning.
"A tale of two outings," manager A.J. Hinch said. "Early he was locked in, executing pitches -- two-seam, four-seam, a couple good cutters into righties. Then he gave up a couple homers. I thought early on it was as good as he's been at locating his pitches, finishing his pitches. Then it flipped a little bit at the end, both in luck and in the couple balls that really burned him."
Keuchel said the pitches to Chapman and Pinder were mistake pitches, but he had no qualms about his overall approach, even when he was getting hit hard later.
"I've already taken a look at [the pitches] before I got too down on myself or blamed myself," Keuchel said. "Sometimes when you throw pitches in guys' cold zones, they're going to hit them out. That's what just happened to be the deciding factor, the last three runs in the seventh."
Keuchel entered this start with a 1.76 ERA over his prior 12 starts vs. the A's, dating back to July 2014.
It may be purely coincidence, but the Astros don't score a lot in games that Keuchel starts, and Friday was another example. Other than their 10-run outburst in Chicago during a recent series with the White Sox, the Astros have totaled seven runs in Keuchel's five starts, including the one run scored in the opener with the A's.
It didn't help that they were facing A's pitcher Sean Manaea, who six days earlier no-hit the Red Sox and ended up stringing together a club-record 14 hitless innings. Carlos Correa's one-out single in the fourth ended the streak.
"We just couldn't bunch anything together to where we could get something going and get on a roll a little bit," Hinch said. "We had a couple of opportunities, but if you expect to capitalize on every single opportunity, especially against a quality pitcher like Manaea [the way] he was throwing the ball, you're not going to. Given a couple more shots, you're going to break through. But not tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Though the game ended up being a blowout, earlier, with the score tied, the Astros were beaten on a shift play that cost them. With Jose Altuve playing closer to short, Marcus Semien singled through the hole at second, an area void of any fielders. Pinder followed with a two-run homer that put the A's up, 3-1.
"He hits the ball to second base so rarely," Hinch said. "It happens from time to time. When he pulls the ball in the hole and we're standing there, we like that."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The exit velocity on Chapman's homer (112.2 mph) was the highest in his career, and the second-hardest by an A's player this year. Matt Olson hit a homer that registered at 112.6 on Opening Day. Additionally, Chapman's homer is the hardest homer anyone has hit off Keuchel since Statcast™ started.
The Astros and A's will meet for the second game of the three-game set Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Lance McCullers (3-1, 4.67 ERA) will make his fifth career start vs. the A's and his first this season. In his most recent outing on April 22, McCullers earned the win, limiting the White Sox to one run over six innings. The A's will counter with right-hander Daniel Mengden (2-2, 3.86).
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.