Astros pick on A’s bullpen, rally for win
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Houston Astros first baseman Marwin Gonzalez was hitless in his past 12 at-bats when he came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning Monday night with no outs and the bases loaded during a tie game against the Oakland A‘s.
Gonzalez grounded right-hander Ryan Madson’s first pitch to center field for a two-run single, lifting the Astros to a 4-2 victory at the Oakland Coliseum as Houston continues its wild-card playoff push.
The Astros (79-71) won for the fourth time in their past five games, and they remain three games back in the race for the American League’s second wild card.
“Nobody’s quitting,” Gonzalez said. “We’re fighting, fighting. We’re close. We’re going to fight until the last game.”
Evan Gattis hit his 28th home run of the season for the Astros, a solo shot in the second inning.
The Astros trailed 2-1 before pulling even in the eighth. Teoscar Hernandez grounded a one-single to left off left-hander Daniel Coulombe. Pinch hitter Tyler White then lined an RBI double down the left field line off right-hander Zach Neal.
“Just looking for fastballs,” White said. “Pinch-hit, I just go up there looking for a pitch to hit, looking for something up in the zone and ended up having a longer at-bat than I normally would pinch-hitting. But yeah, got a fastball that I was able to handle and luckily snuck it in there right inside the line.”
In the top of the ninth, Jose Altuve hit a leadoff single to right off Madson and moved to third on Carlos Correa’s hit-and-run single to right-center. Madson (5-7) intentionally walked Gattis, loading the bases, but Gonzalez made him pay.
“He didn’t get too big,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Gonzalez. “Sometimes our guys, they want to win so badly, you want to be the guy. We can come out of our swing a little bit. We can swing hard and have some emptiness to some of our swings. Not tonight. Working the ball up the middle, taking whatever Madson gave him.”
Luke Gregerson (4-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning, stranding a runner at third. Ken Giles pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 12th save.
Astros right-hander Brad Peacock, a former A’s minor-leaguer, gave up two runs on three hits, including two home runs, over 5 1/3 innings. Five Houston relievers pitched no-hit ball the rest of the way.
Rookies Ryon Healy and Bruce Maxwell hit solo home runs for the A‘s. Mawell’s home run was the first of his career. Oakland managed just one other hit in the game.
“It felt good to finally get one,” Maxwell said.
A’s rookie Jharel Cotton allowed one run on two hits over six innings, struck out six and walked none. It was in his third career major league start since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 7. Over 18 innings, he has allowed five earned runs and 11 hits while striking out 11 and walking three. He owns a 1.50 ERA.
“It’s been fascinating so far,” Cotton said. “I‘m just hoping to keep it going. We have a good group of guys behind me, pushing me and pushing me to get better.”
The Astros struck first, taking a 1-0 lead on Gattis’ solo shot with one out in the second inning. Gattis lined Cotton’s 3-2 pitch over the left-center-field fence.
Oakland pulled even in the bottom of the second with one out when Healy launched a solo home run to left off Peacock, his 11th of the season, all since being called up from Nashville on July 15.
Two batters later, Maxwell hit an opposite-field, two-out home run to left-center, giving the A’s a 2-1 lead. Healy and Maxwell each hit 80 mph Peacock sliders.
“I just made a couple mistakes with the slider, and they took advantage of it for sure,” Peacock said. “Put some good swings on it, but other than that, I thought the night went pretty well.”
NOTES: Athletics LF Khris Davis was named the American League’s co-Player of the Week along with Red Sox 1B Hanley Ramirez. Davis batted .400 with five home runs and 13 RBIs last week. He hit his 39th and 40th home runs Sunday against Texas. ... Athletics RHP Henderson Alvarez will undergo right shoulder surgery Tuesday. Alvarez, who had season-ending surgery on July 28, 2015, with the Marlins, had multiple setbacks this season and did not appear in a game for the A‘s. ... Astros 3B Yuli Gurriel batted second in the lineup for the fourth time this season. He has hit fifth 10 times, sixth five times and fourth three times. ... A’s RHP Sonny Gray (strained right forearm) will throw another bullpen session Tuesday, and if all goes well he’ll likely pitch a simulated game later this week. He has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7. ... The Astros will stick with their current rotation through the upcoming four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.