That the Oakland A’s weren’t pointing any fingers after Monday’s 10-5 loss to the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Division Series might be written off to the fact that no one has enough fingers to sketch out the A’s Game 1 issues.
There was Marcus Semien’s two-out fifth-inning error that led to four unearned runs, turning the game around. There was reliever J.B. Wendelken being unable to get another out after the error. The was the A’s MLB-best bullpen as a whole giving up seven runs, three of them earned. There was Chris Bassitt, the A’s best starter the second half of the 60-game season, unable to get an out in the fifth inning.
There were the hitters who failed to step up with runners in scoring position when the A’s had a chance to blow the Astros out of the game early. There were the batters who didn’t get a hit over the final five innings against a middling Houston bullpen.
There was even the heat at Dodger Stadium that led to three big Astros homers, although it has to be noted that the A’s also went deep three times.
There were fingers to be point. It’s just that the A’s didn’t point them.
“That’s what’s team’s all about,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve got to try to pick it up.”
Melvin was talking specifically about the Semien error that led to the four unearned runs that upended the day for the A’s.
Rookie catcher Sean Murphy, whose homer in the third inning pushed an early Oakland lead to 3-0, followed much the same track when asked about the error and the subsequently Wendelken meltdown.
“Nothing changed,” Murphy said. “We went out there and we still tried to execute out pitches. We didn’t. There was some soft contact mixed in there. We had plenty of opportunities to get out of the inning after that.
“So, it falls on no one person.”
It’s not that the A’s were ducking responsibility. They were instead accepting responsibility. Collective responsibility. They did that following the Game 1 loss in the wild card round against the White Sox, and they came back to win that series. They’d like to think that they’ll do it again.
“We’re not by any means panicking or anything like that,” Bassitt said. “It’s just win tomorrow. Just play the game, play our game and don’t really worry about all the extra crap, and stick to the script.”
The Astros finished with a losing record during the regular season, but they needed just two games to finish off the AL Central champion Twins, and now they’re up 1-0 in the best of five series against the AL West champ A’s, who won seven of the 10 regular season games between the two sides.
“It’s good to have done it,” first baseman Matt Olson, who hit a tie-breaking homer in the fourth inning, said of having come back from a 1-0 deficit against the White Sox to beat Chicago and advance. “Knowing that we have even a couple more games in this series is good, too.
“It happens. We’ve got to look at it as we need to win three out of a four-game series. We’ve done that plenty of times throughout the season. We’ll just come back tomorrow and win that game.
With the A’s up 5-3 after a Mark Canha sacrifice fly, Wendelken took over in the sixth inning and got two quick outs. He thought he’d gotten a third when former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick hit a routine grounder toward short. Semien bobbled the pickup, and his throw was barely late.
“Yeah, that was a tough play,” Olson said. “Reddick is a good base runner and he hit it off the end of the bat. It was rolling pretty slow and we’re in the shift, so Marcus cut across, over toward second base. You know, it happens like that in baseball.
That error proved to be the break the Astros needed. Catcher Martin Maldonado singled, then George Springer, who had singled in his first three at-bats, doubled home a run.
Jose Altuve followed with a double that pushed Houston into a 6-5 lead, and after lefty Jake Diekman came out of the A’s bullpen, Michael Brantley singled to cap a four-run inning, with all the runs unearned but still good for a 7-5 Houston advantage. The A’s wouldn’t touch the Astros bullpen while Houston would continue to chip away at Oakland’s.
“Just put it in the rearview mirror,” Olson said. “Come back tomorrow and get a win.”
The A’s will throw lefty Sean Manaea in Game 2. He didn’t pitch in the wild card series, so the 1:35 p.m. game will be his first start since Sept. 23, just shy of two weeks. After an 0-2 start to the season, Manaea went 4-1 in his last six starts with a 2.65 ERA, and the A’s won the one game in which he got a no-decision.
He faced the Astros just once, throwing seven innings while allowing one run in a 3-1 win on Sept. 10.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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