OAKLAND -- The A's went quietly Wednesday afternoon, their offense still idle in a 4-1 loss as they slipped below .500 following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Astros.Right-hander Daniel Mengden was done in by a pair of late-inning homers, otherwise excellent in 6 2/3 innings of work
OAKLAND -- The A's went quietly Wednesday afternoon, their offense still idle in a 4-1 loss as they slipped below .500 following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Astros.
Right-hander Daniel Mengden was done in by a pair of late-inning homers, otherwise excellent in 6 2/3 innings of work against a lineup that clobbered him less than two weeks ago, and highly touted outfield prospect Dustin Fowler got his long-awaited first at-bat in the big leagues.
There was little else to write home about.
The A's struck first in an enticing pitchers' duel between Mengden and Astros strikeout machine Gerrit Cole, who surrendered an RBI double to Jed Lowrie in the sixth.
But Houston responded with two runs in the seventh, getting back-to-back homers from Max Stassi and Derek Fisher with two outs to force Mengden out of the game.
"He pitched great," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "In a game like that with very little room for error, one or two swings can beat you, and that's what happened. He was cruising along nicely against a really good lineup."
The right-hander had yielded just four other hits up until that point, holding a potent Astros lineup -- which tagged him for five runs in 2 1/3 innings on April 28 -- in check. He struck out four and didn't walk a batter.
"Just throwing strikes," Mengden said. "Last time, I didn't throw strikes, fell behind, and it wasn't a good recipe. Today I thought I was throwing the fastball in really well. I was establishing that early, establishing strike one and staying in control from there.
"Everything was going really well. Even the pitches they hit out I thought were decent. The pitch we wanted, maybe not the exact location we wanted on one of them, but that's just baseball."
Cole, who fanned 12 A's batters in their previous meeting, recorded nine in six innings this go-around, giving him 86 in 56 2/3 innings this season. He limited the A's to just four hits.
Houston tacked on two insurance runs against right-hander Yusmeiro Petit in the eighth courtesy of Yuli Gurriel's two-run double.
The A's, now 18-19, have lost each of their last five games against the Astros, who have outscored them, 43-9.
Fowler, robbed of an at-bat during his big league debut with the Yankees last year after sustaining a devastating knee injury in the field, finally got a crack at one, pinch-hitting in the seventh inning for his A's debut. Fowler, who came to Oakland in the Sonny Gray deal, softly lined out on the second pitch he saw. He'll make his first start Friday at Yankee Stadium -- against Gray.
"It was good," said Fowler, promoted from Triple-A earlier in the day. "It was kind of a nice way to do it. Just get out there and get it out of the way real quick. Not the way you want it to go, but it's nice to get it out of the way after the road I went through." More >
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With two outs and a runner stationed on second base in the fifth inning of a scoreless game, A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty made what Statcast™ deemed a four-star catch on George Springer's deep fly ball to the right-field corner in foul territory. Piscotty had to cover 90 feet in 5.2 seconds for a 30-percent catch probability.
Piscotty was also responsible for one of the A's four hits, doubling off Cole. He's expected to go on the bereavement list Friday following the death of his mother, Gretchen, who passed away Sunday after a battle with ALS.
"Deepest condolences for his family," Mengden said. "Being out here and playing, I can't imagine what he's going through, and just to have him out there is incredible. That play was a big turning point. I always like having him out there." More >
The A's will enjoy an off-day in New York on Thursday, before beginning play at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Scheduled starter Trevor Cahill was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a right elbow impingement, and the A's have yet to announce his replacement. Former Athletics pitcher Gray is scheduled to start for the Yankees.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.