Straily, Crisp lead A's to big win over Astros
HOUSTON -- The A's sure didn't play shy with the Astros on Friday, instead greeting their new division foes with the liveliest of introductions.
Four pitches in, they were already up by a run, thanks to Coco Crisp's ninth career leadoff homer off former A's farmhand Brad Peacock. Five innings in, they led by eight, following a seven-run frame that clocked in at nearly 45 minutes.
"More like 50 minutes," said A's starter Dan Straily, laughing. "I just kept watching the clock."
Nevertheless, the A's simply outdid themselves, perhaps even already overstaying their welcome at Minute Maid Park despite two games still left to be played in the series, with an 8-3 victory.
Oakland has won three straight, while the Astros have dropped just as many in a row, their last victory coming Sunday -- with two off-days inbetween -- on Opening Night. Before Friday, Houston hadn't scored since then either.
On this night, it was Straily who handcuffed the Astros' sluggish lineup, compiling a career-high 11 strikeouts -- his previous high was eight -- in 6 2/3 innings, leaving a positive impression on A's officials, who optioned him to Triple-A after the game to prepare for Bartolo Colon's return to the rotation on Saturday.
A's manager Bob Melvin waited until the conclusion of Friday's contest to inform Straily of the move, a decision the pitcher knew about well in advance of his start.
"It's honestly something I thought about," Straily said. "I tried not to, but I could do basic math. There's six of us for five spots, and I'm the least experienced, the youngest guy. So I take it in stride and go down and do some work and see you later. It's not a down note for me today. I'm pretty excited about today."
"He knew what was going on, and even admitted that it was weighing on his mind all day today," Melvin said. "But he put that away and performed as well as we've seen him. He was terrific."
Straily drew plenty of inspiration from tape of Rangers hurler Yu Darvish's near-perfecto, studying just how a right-hander would face an Astros' lineup that has compiled 56 strikeouts in 129 total at-bats this season.
In the end, the young righty allowed just two runs on five hits, and didn't walk a batter.
"He's a good pitcher," Crisp said. "There's going to be a point in the season where it's his spot. It's a long season. Anything can happen. He's proven himself in the Minors, and he did a fantastic job tonight, so it's just a matter of time before one of those spots is his."
Crisp had himself a memorable night of his own, despite dealing with a back that stiffened when he dove for a ball off the bat of former teammate Chris Carter that landed for a base hit in the first inning.
"It just grabbed on me," he said. "They almost took me out, but I didn't feel like it was broken or anything, so I was able to make it."
Indeed he was. Crisp led the barrage with three hits, following up his home run with two doubles, both of which came in a fifth inning that saw the A's step to the plate 13 times.
Just as Crisp welcomed back Peacock to the big leagues for the first time since 2011, he also sent him back to the dugout with one out in the fifth after notching his first two-bagger. That left the A's to battle lefty Xavier Cedeno, who faced seven hitters and gave up six runs (three earned) without tallying a single out.
The Astros' reliever walked two to load the bases, and one joined Crisp at home plate when shortstop Marwin Gonzalez bobbled a potential double-play ball off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. Instead of the inning ending, it ran on much longer.
John Jaso put down a perfectly placed squeeze bunt to bring home Josh Reddick from third, and a shaken Cedeno walked another batter -- this time Chris Young -- before offering up a two-run base hit to Josh Donaldson, his night finally coming to an end after hitting the next batter, Eric Sogard.
Right-hander Rhiner Cruz took the ball from Cedeno and, after picking up out No. 2, allowed a two-run double to Crisp. Another walk followed before Reddick mercifully ended the inning on a flyout.
"It's a little shocking when you hit around, because it doesn't happen often," Crisp said, "so it's always exciting as a team when that does happen."
For the Astros, it only prolonged the discouraging stretch they're riding as they get to know their American League West opponents.
"We had a rough fifth inning," Carter said. "When they're up seven, it's hard to come back."