If the Oakland A’s were going to win Game 1 of the American League Division Series Monday, they were going to do something they hadn’t been particularly great at lately.
They were going to have to hit with runners in scoring position.
The A’s hit plenty Monday. Khris Davis hit a two-run homer in the second. Sean Murphy homered in the third, those two combing for a 3-0 lead. In the fourth, Matt Olson homered, too, breaking a 3-3 tie. And in the fifth, Matt Canha added a sacrifice fly, good for a 5-3 lead.
What they didn’t do was hit with runners in scoring position. Oakland had a chance to blow the Astros out of the game early. They didn’t, and it cost them.
Following Murphy’s homer leading off the third, the A’s got singles from Tommy La Stella and Marcus Semien as were poised to knock Houston starter Lance McCullers out of the game. But Jake Lamb hit into a double play and Canha struck out.
Olson’s homer led off the fourth inning. Davis, getting hotter at the plate all the time, singled and Robbie Grossman just missed a homer into the right field corner, settling for a double.
With men on second and third and no one out, and Oakland already ahead 4-3, the Astros had the bullpen up and working. McCullers, on the other hand, struck out Ramón Laureano, had Murphy hit a soft grounder to third that had no chance of advancing the runners, then struck out La Stella, who statistically is the American League hitter least likely to strike out.
The fifth inning saw an Alex Bregman throwing error put Marcus Semien second with no one out. He would come around to score the fifth Oakland run following a Chad Pinder grounder and a Canha sacrifice fly.
So. Three inning with a runner or runners at second base with no one out. And the A’s went hitless. It doesn’t have to be that way. Houston scored four runs with two out and no one on base following a Semien error in the sixth, an inning that included back-to-back-to-back hits with RISP.
“At the time, we’re putting together good at-bats, and you feel good about where we’re at,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Obviously with runners in soring position, it wasn’t our best today, but usually with our team and how we end up finishing games, both offensively and in the bullpen, we felt like we had a good chance.
“It just didn’t happen.”
It’s not the first time. The A’s had 125 at-bats with runners in scoring position this season, ninth among the 30 MLB teams. Of those, 58 scored, which is just 13th.
The A’s haven’t been able deliverer with RISP all season.
They’re going to have to get over it.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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