In his first six starts of the season, Oakland’s Chris Bassitt had allowed a total of three runs in the first inning.
In the first inning of Saturday’s first game of a doubleheader, Bassitt got two quick outs, then walked Michael Brantley. Two pitches later, the A’s were in a hole they wouldn’t dig out of in a 4-2 loss.
Yuri Gurriel doubled into the right field corner on the first pitch he saw, and the pitch after that was planted deep into the right field bleachers by Kyle Tucker.
Bassitt was starting for the first time in a week after four consecutive starts pitching on four days’ rest. It may have had an impact, although Oakland manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t go that far.
“He was just a little off with his command,” Melvin said between games. He got behind some, got off to two-out, nobody on and then all of a sudden it’s 3-0 and that gets you on the run a little bit.”
After a Josh Reddick leadoff homer in the fourth, and two subsequent runners on base, Melvin felt the need to pull Bassitt because the rules are a little different in a game that is only going to run seven innings.
Lou Trivino and Yusmeiro Petit pitched the final three innings without allowing anything much to the Astros, but the Oakland offense couldn’t get loose against Houston starter Lance McCullers.
They tried. Mark Canha attempted to score from first base with two out in the second inning, but he was called out on a close play at the plate. The A’s challenged the call, and even though a couple of replays seemed to indicate that Canha had kept his foot low and brushed the plate before being tagged by catcher Martin Maldonado, the call wasn’t reversed.
“It looked like he got his foot in there on the replay,” Melvin said, having seen only the replay on the Minute Maid Park screen. During games the video room is off limits. “But I really don’t know.”
Astros starter Lance McCullers usually starts with lot of fastballs, but early in this one his curve and changeup were more in play, seeming to catch the A’s off-guard.
“McCullers has been tough on us before,” Melvin said. “He rarey givfes you a fastball to hit. There were a lot of breaking balls in fastball counts. And there were a lot more changeups to right-handed batters than we’ve seen in the past from him. He mixed it up pretty well.
“When you have to be aware of his breaking ball and his changeup, the fastball plays a little bit better.”
The A’s would go on to score in the fourth inning when a double from Robbie Grossman and a single from Stephen Piscotty set up an run-scoring grounder from Matt Chapman, but Matt Olson and Canha couldn’t get the runner at second base home.
After a three-base throwing error by McCullers, Chapman singled to cut the deficit to 4-2, but Oakland wouldn’t get another base runner. McCullers pitched the first six innings before closer Ryan Pressley had a quick 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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