OAKLAND — It was setting up as another triumphant night for the A’s rookies, which has been a theme lately.
But the Houston Astros scored once in the eighth to tie it, then got to Oakland closer Ryan Madson once again in the ninth inning to deal the A’s a 4-2 defeat Monday at the Coliseum.
The game-winning rally was capped by Marwin Gonzalez’s two-run single up the middle, which came immediately after A’s manager Bob Melvin had Evan Gattis intentionally walked with men on the corners to load the bases with no outs. Gattis had homered earlier in the game and routinely bashes A’s pitching, but Gonzalez spoiled the strategy by driving in two off Madson, who has now taken three losses in eight appearances against Houston this season, surrendering seven earned runs in seven innings pitched.
The ending certainly didn’t play out to the A’s liking, but there was plenty to be encouraged about. Rookie starter Jharel Cotton turned in another impressive outing, going six innings and allowing just one run. Both of the A’s runs came on home runs from rookies — Ryon Healy went deep in the second and catcher Bruce Maxwell followed with his first career long ball shortly after.
Starting pitching report: Working his fastball around the zone and mixing in some excellent off-speed stuff, Cotton allowed just two base runners over his six innings. One of those was a homer by Evan Gattis on a 3-2 pitch in the second. But what else is new? Gattis’ 11 career home runs against the A’s are his most versus any club. Cotton finished by retiring 14 of his final 15 hitters. In three major league starts, he hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of them.
Bullpen report: Melvin stayed away from using either Liam Hendriks or John Axford, who both pitched Sunday. Zach Neal was on the hill in the eighth when Houston tied the game, though his run was charged to Daniel Coulombe. Madson took over in the eighth and recorded the final out to keep it 2-2 at that time.
At the plate: Healy entered the night hitting an American League-best .391 in September. Then he got hold of a 1-1 pitch in his first at-bat against Brad Peacock (0-1) and drilled it over the left field wall for his 11th home run. Healy didn’t join the A’s until the start of the second half, but his 11 homers tie him for fifth-most on the club. He’s also riding a 10-game hitting streak.
Maxwell took Peacock deep to the opposite field in left-center for his first career homer. It came two batters after Healy’s blast in the second and gave the A’s a 2-1 lead. But the A’s couldn’t muster much beyond that, totaling just three hits altogether.
In the field: Maxwell contributed defensively as well, hauling in two foul pop-ups near the visitors’ dugout. He had a longs way to go for both. Madson and rookie first baseman Matt Olson combined for a great play to end the top of the eighth and strand the go-ahead run at third. Madson sprung off the mound to field Yuli Gurriel’s tapper and threw to first, with Olson making a nifty scoop.
Attendance: Monday nights always draw a sparse crowd, and Astros don’t exactly pack ‘em in. Result: 10,072 announced.
Up next: The A’s will look for better results Tuesday night against Astros right-hander Joe Musgrove, who blanked them over 5 1/3 innings in a 6-0 Houston win Aug. 29. Sean Manaea (6-9, 4.23) takes the hill for Oakland. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.