A nine-game winning streak and ownership of the best record in baseball should feel better than this.
The Oakland A’s 7-2 win to complete a sweep of the three-time defending AL West champion Houston Astros would feel a whole lot better to the A’s were it not for the probability that center fielder Ramón Laureano and possibly catcher Austin Allen will be lost to the club for the near future.
Both men were ejected in the seventh inning Sunday after Laureano was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. Laureano wasn’t happy about it, and he jawed with several of the Astros, including pitcher Humberto Castellanos. He did take first base, but while there, a discussion of sorts continued with Astros coach Alex Cintrón, and ultimately Laureano charged the Astros dugout.
Both benches emptied, which would be problematic in normal ties but which is an absolute no-no in this age of coronavirus pandemic social distancing. Allen, still in his catching gear, mixed it up with Houston catcher Martin Maldonado.
The Major League Baseball office in New York can be expected to look at the video of the incident closely Sunday night into Monday morning, and by the time the A’s take the field Monday in Anaheim against the Angels, they’ll know where they stand. It’s a good bet they will have to dip into their taxi squad for at least a couple of replacements, and depending on what the video shows, perhaps more, although the players are likely to appeal any suspension.
It’s not the first time the Astros have been involved a brawl this season. Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly was slapped with an unheard-of eight-game suspension as part of a fracas with the Astros in which no punches were thrown. Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts was suspended one game. Kelly has continued to pitch, however, while the hearing of his appeal has been delayed.
The A’s win, fueled by homers from Robbie Grossman, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, pushed the Astros into third place in the AL West.
“Clearly the frustration is building up on that side,” winning pitcher Jesús Luzardo said of the altercation, “so they just let it out.”
Manager Bob Melvin said that “Ramon doesn’t go over there unless something completely offensive came out of that dugout.”
“I think the league will know who that is, and that person should be suspended,” Melvin said.
Asked about the possibility of a suspension for Laureano, Melvin said, “we understand, and you do the best you can with these things.
“Obviously we don’t want to get into a brawl like that. And we understand the protocol. And unfortunately, it happened,” Melvin said.
First baseman Matt Olson, whose three-run homer was the big blow in a four-run third inning that opened the game up, was in the on-deck circle when Laureano was hit. He’d also been hit in the fifth inning, and in the 12th inning of Friday’s series-opener.
“I was in the on-deck circle, and when he got hit, me and Chappy (third baseman Matt Chapman, who follows Olson in the order) went over there,” Olson said. “Obviously, you can’t have just one guy against a whole team.”
“He was hit a lot in the series. It was a curveball, but when he started going down the line what we’ve heard is that some things were said to him that weren’t right. I think he was provoked. There was a lot of chatter going back and forth. I don’t know exactly what was said or what the deal was.”
Laureano, who came up in the Houston organization before being traded to the A’s after the 2017 season, was hitless in two at-bats before being hit in consecutive trips to the plate. He’s hitting .278 for the season, and has been among the most clutch of Oakland hitters with three homers and 10 RBI.
A’s batters are finding getting hit by pitches to be not that uncommon. With two Sunday and five for the three-game series against Astros – Robbie Grossman was hit twice Friday -- the A’s have been hit 14 times in 16 games, the most in the American League.
“It’s hard to get hit; what was it? Five times I think we got hit in the series and we played it straight up,” Melvin said. “We didn’t go after anybody there. I’m not saying that they went after anybody, but we get hit five times, that’s hard to swallow.”
For all of that, Olson said the flight to Southern California Sunday night for the three-game set against the Angels should find the team in good spirits having taken six straight at home against division rivals Texas and Houston.
“We’ve got some timely hits for sure and played really well this homestand,” the first baseman said. “Obviously against two solid division teams, so you know we’re feeling really good about it and we’ll have a happy flight down to L.A.“
The Astros, meanwhile, fly home having fallen into third place in the AL West, with Texas (6-8) second in the division, five games back and Houston (6-9) 5½ games back.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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