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Trio of HRs not enough after Blackburn hit hard

MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- After a stellar outing in his season debut last week, A's right-hander Paul Blackburn was pummeled in his second start of the year on Wednesday night.

Tasked with taming a menacing Astros lineup, Blackburn had no such luck, recording just four outs and allowing eight runs on eight hits in a disastrous 47-pitch display that put the A's in an early hole in a 13-5 loss at Oakland Coliseum.

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OAKLAND -- After a stellar outing in his season debut last week, A's right-hander Paul Blackburn was pummeled in his second start of the year on Wednesday night.

Tasked with taming a menacing Astros lineup, Blackburn had no such luck, recording just four outs and allowing eight runs on eight hits in a disastrous 47-pitch display that put the A's in an early hole in a 13-5 loss at Oakland Coliseum.

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There were surely bright spots: Khris Davis homered twice, Stephen Piscotty went deep and outfielder Jake Smolinski was summoned for his first career pitching appearance. But it was otherwise bleak in the A's seventh straight loss to the defending World Series-champion Astros, who have outscored them, 62-17, in that span.

Video: HOU@OAK: Melvin on rough start, loss to Astros

"I just didn't execute my pitches tonight," said Blackburn, who held the Royals to one run over six innings six days prior. "Fell behind early, I just didn't execute. That's the bottom line, really. Warming up was fine. Once the game came back on, it sped up on me a little bit, and that's a good team over there."

"Had him on the run early, and typically with a starting pitcher, that's when he's most vulnerable," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "so I had to go get him early."

Evan Gattis again led a relentless Houston attack. Following Blackburn's departure, Gattis launched a three-run homer against right-hander Emilio Pagan, who yielded another to Marwin Gonzalez for back-to-back shots in a seven-run second inning. Gattis, who launched another homer in the seventh off lefty Danny Coulombe, had five RBIs for a second straight night. He has 50 RBIs in 53 career games against Oakland.

Video: Gattis plates 10 runs in 2 games to set Astros record

"He's locked in right now," Melvin said. "We just make too many mistakes against him. For the most part, he's a pull hitter, and that's where most of his damage is, to left field. Granted, he's a good hitter. He's been around a while for a reason, but we just make too many mistakes in the middle of the plate for him to pull."

The Astros had 10 runs on as many hits by the end of the second inning, giving starter Gerrit Cole plenty of wiggle room. The A's became the first team to tag the right-hander for more than three runs this year, collecting four on a pair of homers.

Piscotty's three-run shot in the fourth was his fourth of the season, while Davis blasted an opposite-field homer in the sixth. Davis' eighth-inning homer off lefty Reymin Guduan was his team-high 19th of the season.

Video: HOU@OAK: Piscotty jacks a 3-run homer to center field

Oakland turned to Smolinski to pitch the ninth, and he served up a two-run homer to Jake Marisnick, as the A's fell back to .500. They're 10-23 against American League West opponents this season.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A position player pitched for just the 12th time in Oakland history, and for the first time since Tyler Ladendorf on June 3, 2016, at Houston. Smolinski said he had not pitched since his junior year of high school.

"Just trying to breathe and throw strikes. That was about it," Smolinski said. "They came out swinging. I just wanted to throw strikes and get out of there as fast as I could."

Video: HOU@OAK: Smolinski retires Correa in the 9th inning

HE SAID IT
"He did a nice job. One thing you want is don't get hurt and throw the ball over the plate, and he did exactly that. We needed to keep some guys available for tomorrow. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions like that. He was up for it, we talked about it one time before. He's up for just about anything." -- Melvin, on Smolinski's pitching appearance

UP NEXT
The A's will attempt to pull out a win against American League ERA leader Justin Verlander (1.45) in Thursday's 12:35 p.m. PT series finale against the Astros at Oakland Coliseum. They'll counter with right-hander Frankie Montas, who has been superb since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville, winning all three of his starts and posting a 1.25 ERA.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

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