OAKLAND - The margin for error is small when you're forced to play catch-up before the first inning even ends.
A's starter Sonny Gray spotted the Houston Astros five runs in the top of the first, and that was a hole that Oakland couldn't climb out of in an 8-4 loss before 15,362 fans at the Coliseum.
The A's gradually chipped away, putting up single runs in the first, third, fourth and seventh to pull within 5-4. But Houston plated a couple big insurance runs in the eighth on Carlos Correa's two-out two-run single off Liam Hendriks.
On the heels of sweeping four from the Yankees, the A's have dropped the first two of this four-game series against the Astros, who improved to a major league-best 48-24.
Stormy times, then Sonny-er times: The Astros batted around against Gray in the top of the first, a 38-pitch odyssey that included five runs, five hits, two walks and a Ryon Healy throwing error that kept the right-hander on the mound even longer. Houston didn't get to him for anything more until the left after the fifth, but the start continued a trend that has seen one big inning bite Gray in every start. He'd allowed three runs in the sixth over each of his previous three starts. This outing was different in that Gray is usually tough in the early going before teams get to him later. Coming into Tuesday, he'd allowed just two earned runs combined in the first and second inning.
Pinder power: Chad Pinder lit into a 1-1 pitch from Francis Martes in the third and drove a 448-foot home run to left-center. It didn't quite match his homer that reached the second deck, over the luxury suites, against Boston, but Tuesday's blast was one of the most impressive drives by an A's hitter this season. Of Pinder's 31 hits this season, 18 are for extra bases.
Joyce sits with back issue: It took an injury to get hot-hitting Matt Joyce out of the lineup. The right fielder was bothered by back tightness, though the hope is that he can return to the leadoff spot Wednesday night. Joyce is 11-for-20 (.550) over a seven-game hitting streak. Jaycob Brugman started in center and batted leadoff, going 1-for-4 with an RBI and a walk.
Brady makes his debut: Michael Brady, a 30-year-old infielder-turned-pitcher who attended Cal, took the mound for his major league debut in the top of the ninth. It was memorable, just not in the manner he wished. Nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltran hit a towering homer to right to extend Houston's lead to four. Still, it was the culmination of quite the journey for Brady, who converted from shortstop to pitcher in 2010 while in the Marlins' farm system.
A glimpse of the future: The A's welcomed outfielder Austin Beck into the fold, signing their 18-year-old first-round draft pick for a bonus of $5,303,000, exactly what the slot value was for the No. 6 pick in the draft. Accompanied by his family, Beck slipped on an A's uniform while dressing at a locker usually received for Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson when he's around. Beck then took batting practice and showed some of the great bat speed that had him rated as one of the draft's top talents. He'll report to the A's Phoenix-based Rookie League team Wednesday.