A's launch four homers in thrashing of Astros
Oakland plates seven in first; Gray goes six frames to earn third win
OAKLAND -- The A's showed no mercy to their Friday night houseguests, displaying a deadly combo of patience and power in their first meeting of the year with the Astros.
And yet, it was a bunt that caused the biggest stir of the night.
Oakland put up a seven-spot against Houston starter Jarred Cosart in the first inning, more than enough runs for Sonny Gray to play with in an 11-3 victory in the three-game series opener.
Apparently it was also enough for Houston manager Bo Porter to assume the A's would simply stop there. Jed Lowrie wasn't about to gently kill the rally, though, so he attempted a bunt upon seeing the shift. Oakland's shortstop was out on the play, yet two innings later he was nearly hit by a pitch -- twice.
By inning's end, Lowrie was being yelled at by Porter, who clearly didn't take a liking to the bunt.
"It's the first inning and they're playing the shift," said Lowrie. "Apparently they didn't like that, but I've seen crazier things happen than a team come back from seven runs. We're trying to win the game, and I felt they were giving me that by playing the shift.
"We're talking about the first inning of a Major League game. These games are important, and there's a lot on the line. I think, at one point, they were one swing away from being two runs down. So if I get on base there and we pick up a couple more runs, that's important."
Turns out, the Astros at one point could've reached within two runs of the lead.
The A's ability to add on in later innings has been a signature trait in recent years, and the 11 runs are a season-high for the club, which improved to a Major League-best 11-5 with the win, while the Astros, growing pains and all, fell to an American League-worst 5-12.
"That's one of our better attributes, making guys work, similar to a boxer, some body blows and sooner or later you end up doing some damage," said manager Bob Melvin. "That's' something we stress and, to an extent, the team is put together that way."
Cosart got all of one out in the first frame, walking four and allowing homers to Alberto Callaspo and Josh Reddick before being pulled at the 39-pitch mark. The A's would send 11 men to the plate in the fateful inning, finished by right-hander Paul Clemens.
Reddick, who entered the day with just four hits in his first 41 at-bats of the season, finished the night with three more, marking the first multihit game of the year for Oakland's right fielder. The home run was his first since Sept. 15.
"It's just nice to get a couple hits, regardless of the home run," said Reddick. "Actually hitting some balls hard that worked out felt really good. I felt really good out there, the best I've felt since Opening Night. I just gotta build on it."
It wasn't the only encouraging performance of the night, as the A's also got three hits from Yoenis Cespedes, including a second-inning solo shot, his fourth of the year.
Perhaps feeling left out, Oakland's other outfielder, Coco Crisp, joined in on the homer-happy day with a fifth-inning shot to right-center off Clemens.
It was Crisp, making his first start since Sunday, who got things going in the first inning, drawing the first of 10 walks the A's would tally on the night. Cosart issued two more in advance of Cespedes' two-run base hit, setting up a three-run homer from Callaspo, who has nine RBIs in 12 games.
Gray wasn't at his best, allowing the Astros a career-high nine hits, but he limited them to three runs in six innings for his third win in four tries this year. The righty, who walked two and struck out four while throwing 106 pitches, is undefeated since Sept. 11.
He has averaged more than six runs of support in his 14 career starts.
"We've had trouble scoring runs early recently," said Melvin. "Mid-to-late games, we've been getting really good at-bats, but at the beginning we haven't looked so good, so to get out to a good start today was real good, Reddick in particular."