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Rare and rarer: A's fall to Astros on Balfour's hiccup

Win streak vs. Houston ends after closer's first blown save since '12

HOUSTON -- Grant Balfour blew a save, and the A's lost a game to the Astros on Tuesday.

The former hadn't happened since April 29, 2012, the latter since June 12, 2007, which ended a 12-game win streak.

Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Grant Balfour blew a save, and the A's lost a game to the Astros on Tuesday.

The former hadn't happened since April 29, 2012, the latter since June 12, 2007, which ended a 12-game win streak.

Full Game Coverage

But that's what will read in the box score of a 5-4 A's loss at Minute Maid Park after the previously perfect Balfour -- he the owner of an Oakland-record 44 consecutive saves entering the night -- surrendered three runs in the ninth.

Balfour paced around the clubhouse after the game until nearly all of his teammates were heading out to board their bus, while he remained in his A's gear, a shower still to be had. Not even that was going to help him cool off, though.

Not on the night that marked an end to a remarkable stretch.

"It's a good run," said Balfour. "I feel like I should've had more now, sitting here. At the same time, if you had told me 44, I would say it's a remarkable number. I guess you can't get too upset about it. 44 is a number, and we're starting all over again. I'm happy I did it, whatever, but I gotta go out there and win games, and I was disappointed tonight I didn't get it done. I felt like I should've been able to finish that game."

The veteran righty, entering with a two-run lead, boarded leadoff man Justin Maxwell on a single and allowed him to advance to second on his own throwing error before making an even bigger mistake to Matt Dominguez, who sent a fastball over the left-center field wall to tie the game.

"I feel like the whole inning could have been totally different," Balfour said. "I put myself in that situation. I knock down that first comebacker, I should field it and throw him out. It gets ruled a hit, and then the next thing you know I'm [up], 0-2, on the next guy and couldn't put him away. I kept bouncing my slider. It wasn't what I wanted it to be tonight. Fastball up and away, and he hits it out. That's it. That's the blown save right there."

One out later, rookie Jonathan Villar doubled, and Balfour proceeded to walk Jose Altuve, leading to a mound visit from manager Bob Melvin. Then facing Jason Castro, Balfour's second pitch got away from catcher Derek Norris, whose throw to first base to pick off Altuve sailed into the outfield, allowing Villar to score the winning run from second.

It marked the third error of the night for the A's, who committed just as many in Monday's one-run win.

"He's gotta throw it. A little bit low, and with their speed, you gotta at least play catch," Melvin said of Norris' throw. "We have not been very good, defensively. We're giving up cheap runs, and in close games, that'll cost you."

Norris was only in the game because John Jaso was forced to exit after seven innings because of general fuzziness felt from taking a foul ball to his helmet in the sixth. Tests revealed Jaso does not have a concussion, making him potentially available to play Wednesday.

Before his departure, Jaso was involved in a third-inning play in which he believed he should've scored. With one out and the bases loaded for Brandon Moss -- whose two-run homer in the eighth temporarily gave the A's the lead -- Oakland's first baseman grounded into a double play against starter Jarred Cosart. Coco Crisp scored from third, and while Josh Donaldson forced a rundown play between first and second, Jaso contemplated whether he could make it home.

But, after one too many pauses, he didn't before the third out was made.

"I was looking for a chance," Jaso said. "I didn't really want to get going until I saw them commit to going after him, but with two outs, I could have maybe gone a little sooner."

The blunder only added to an array of costly mistakes by the A's, who also grounded into four double plays.

Jarrod Parker, who gave the A's seven strong innings of work while going on 11 days' rest thanks to the All-Star break, allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Just one run was earned, though, as Parker's two-base fielding error in the fifth led to Houston's second run.

"Pretty terrible fundamentals," Parker said. "I got down, had a bad grip, stood up and didn't make a good throw. That's a play that has to be made.

"This stretch, it's something we don't want to make a habit of. We're usually a good defensive team and make the routine, fundamental plays, and we just have to get back to that."

"We've been a bit sloppy, and tonight it definitely cost us," Melvin added. "We do work every day. You just go through some periods like these, and you have to address it, and we have. It's a period where we're not playing crisp baseball, defensively."

Balfour surely took the blame for his part in Tuesday's mess, the A's first loss to the Astros in 11 games this season.

"I didn't make pitches and I didn't put away guys, and I should never put the team in that situation," he said. "I feel like I'm better than that. It was all on me."

Said Parker: "No closer has ever been perfect. It's obviously an incredible accomplishment. He knows how to get through this, and I think he's going to come back even better."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.


Oakland Athletics, Grant Balfour, Brandon Moss, Jarrod Parker