Game of Inch(es): Astros Edge Athletics by Narrowest of Margins


The Oakland Athletics had dominated the Houston Astros for the bulk of the season, winning the first 10 games until Matt Dominguez broke Grant Balfour‘s consecutive saves streak back on July 23 en route to a walk-off win in Houston.  Since the Astros broke through they’ve shown a little more fight than they had previously, and tonight’s game between the two teams in Oakland was a hard fought battle without a doubt.  The Athletics battled back from down 5-0 to close the deficit to 5-4 as they went to the bottom of the ninth inning.  A walk by Stephen Vogt set the table for the dramatic events of the inning.  Eric Sogard very nearly put the game away with a long fly ball to right field but the ball lost its carry at the warning track and was hauled in for the second out of the inning.  Chris Young came to bat against Chia-Jen Lo and sent a rocket down the left field line that seemed destined to clang off the foul pole but hooked just foul.  Replays seemed to show that the ball changed direction slightly as it passed the pole, but upon review the umpires determined that the original ruling would stand.  Young struck out on the next pitch to end the game.

This is about the same look Chris Young had on his face when his would-be walk-off home run was ruled foul tonight. (Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA) TODAY Sports

The ball may or may not have made contact with the foul pole, it’s pretty much impossible to tell though.  If it missed, it did so by inches… or inch perhaps.  The fact that this took place during the ninth inning when the umpire crew including Angel Hernandez will not be lost on any members of the Athletics fanbase.  Although Hernandez stayed on the field as the play was reviewed, so this one can’t be pinned on him.  That said, a makeup call would’ve been nice.

The bottom line of this game was that Bartolo Colon didn’t have his best stuff for the second consecutive game.  His velocity appeared to increase slightly from the 88-90 range he showed on his fastball in Cincinnati, but he didn’t quite have that extra gear needed to put away the Astros hitters.  In losing his second straight start, Colon lasted just 4 innings, allowing 5 ER on 7 hits and a walk, he struck out 3.  Jesse Chavez worked 3.2 scoreless innings, and Jerry Blevins handled 1.1 innings of clean work as well.

The offense laid dormant for most of the game against Astros starter Jordan Lyles, tallying just five hits and an earned run through his 7 innings of work.  The horrendous Astros bullpen came on for the eighth inning and that was when the offense began to awaken.  An RBI single by Josh Reddick after a leadoff triple by Josh Donaldson set the table.  Yoenis Cespedes followed with a laser shot two-run home run, his 19th of the season, to cut the Astros lead to 5-4, but that would be as close as the A’s would get – unless you count inches.

The A’s caught a break in that the Texas Rangers finally lost, this time to the Milwaukee Brewers so they remain 1 game behind them in the AL West race.  They do however hold a 1/2 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the number 1 wild card spot, and are 2.5 games up on the Baltimore Orioles.  Tomorrow marks a rematch of Jarrod Parker vs. Jarred Cosart as the A’s look to get back in the win column against a very talented young hurler for the Astros.  As tonight’s game was all about the Astros bullpen and their ability to hold a lead, tomorrow’s game will come down to the Athletics ability to keep the Astros in check until they can get Cosart out of the game.  If they’re in striking distance when the bullpen comes in, I like their chances.