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Cahill solid, but A's implode late in finale defeat

MLB.com @JaneMLB

HOUSTON -- Despite a strong effort from right-hander Trevor Cahill on Sunday afternoon, the A's were denied a fourth straight series victory, imploding in the late innings at Minute Maid Park.

An ugly defensive showing in the seventh against a potent Astros club that surely needs no help led to an 8-4 rubber-match loss -- and on the heels of an embarrassing 11-0 loss on Saturday, no less.

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HOUSTON -- Despite a strong effort from right-hander Trevor Cahill on Sunday afternoon, the A's were denied a fourth straight series victory, imploding in the late innings at Minute Maid Park.

An ugly defensive showing in the seventh against a potent Astros club that surely needs no help led to an 8-4 rubber-match loss -- and on the heels of an embarrassing 11-0 loss on Saturday, no less.

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The club's mini-skid has been ugly. Following Saturday's loss, the A's were done in by a three-error inning in Sunday's matinee that overshadowed Cahill's work, along with a gritty offensive effort against Astros starter Gerrit Cole.

Still, the A's will finish the month of April at .500 (14-14) after dropping 10 of their first 15 games.

"I thought Trevor pitched well enough to win," A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He did a very good job. Defensively, we just gave it up. We gave them too many free bags, and you give guys free bags, you're going to get hurt, especially against a team like that. We got to be better on the defensive side."

Video: OAK@HOU: Lucroy plates Pinder with a double to right

The fateful frame began in a 3-3 tie. Cahill, who held the Astros to four hits over six-plus innings, was pulled after walking the first batter he faced, Alex Bregman, in the seventh. Right-hander Yusmeiro Petit got Marwin Gonzalez on strikes, but Lucroy fired an errant throw to second trying for Bregman, who easily advanced to third and scored when Marcus Semien tried for an over-the-shoulder catch on a Brian McCann popup and dropped the ball.

"Those are always tough," said Semien, whose seven errors lead the Majors. "I knew someone had to get back there and catch it, because it was in no-man's land, so I tried my best to slow the ball down. When you're sprinting you have to slow it down, but unfortunately, it dropped."

Jake Marisnick's ensuing RBI double forced Petit out of the game, and right-hander Ryan Dull endured no better, throwing the ball away on a pickoff attempt to allow Marisnick to score. Jose Altuve's RBI single capped the eventful inning.

Oakland totaled four errors on the day -- two by Lucroy, who was also charged with a catcher's interference that led to an unearned run in Houston's two-run third.

"You can't be doing that, giving guys free bases and they score," Lucroy said. "That's the sole reason we lost today. If we pitch and play defense correctly like we should -- and I thought we pitched pretty good, but the defense killed us today -- then we win this game."

Cahill was charged with four runs (three earned), while the A's became the first team this season to score more than two runs against Cole, who yielded three and fanned 12 in 6 2/3 innings.

Lucroy collected three hits, teaming up with Chad Pinder for back-to-back doubles that led to the game's first run in the third before singling and scoring in the sixth on a Jed Lowrie base hit -- which gave the second baseman 35 hits in the month of April, breaking his own Oakland record. Lucroy also notched an RBI single in the seventh to tie the game momentarily, before it slipped away.

Video: OAK@HOU: Lowrie's RBI single bounces off Gurriel

"That's what did us in there at the end," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Leadoff walk, Petit comes in and gets a strikeout, and the next thing you know, he's on third. He does his job and gets a popup, and we don't execute that. In a nutshell, that's what cost us today."

The Astros tacked on two more in the eighth against Santiago Casilla. Pinder homered with two outs in the ninth against Astros reliever Joe Smith for his third of the season.

Video: OAK@HOU: Pinder swats a solo shot to center field

HE SAID IT
"We found a way to get three runs off of him when he was at his best. Lucroy was a big part of that. You really got to grind against Cole, especially the way he's attacking now. We felt like we were back in the game, and then that inning happens and it's a little deflating." -- Semien

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Astros catcher Max Stassi, a fourth-round Draft pick of the A's in 2009, nearly homered against Cahill in the fifth inning. But fan interference was called when a fan reached over the yellow line of the right-field wall and made contact with Stephen Piscotty's glove.The ruling was confirmed via a crew chief review, marking the first out of the inning.

"Looked like it was a no-brainer, certainly," Melvin said.

Video: OAK@HOU: Stassi flies out after fan interference

UP NEXT
The A's will enjoy an off-day in Seattle on Monday, before embarking on a three-game series against the Mariners at Safeco Field. Right-hander Andrew Triggs will attempt to outdo Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. PT series opener. Triggs (2-0, 4.70 ERA) faced Seattle on April 13, allowing two runs on five hits in five innings.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Trevor Cahill