HOUSTON — Jeurys Familia turned around and watched his 0-2 slider to Tyler White get launched into the Crawford boxes at Minute Maid Park. Familia crossed the third base line toward the dugout of somber A’s players while White arrived at home plate to an elated group of Astros who doused him with Gatorade, buckets of bubble gum and any other dugout snack you could think of.
Watching a pitch leave the yard has been a rare sight for Familia, who had yet to allow a home run with the A’s up until Wednesday’s walk-off. Heck, it’s been rare for the back end of the bullpen in general, which features four potential closers. But you can only expect perfection for so long with an A’s starting rotation that has been struggling the way it has.
Trevor Cahill’s bad road performances worsened in the A’s 5-4 loss, putting them 2½ games behind the Astros (82-51) for first place in the AL West with 28 games to play.
“We had been getting really good starts and deeper in games to not tax the bullpen much, but recently it’s been the opposite,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “At some point in time, we need to get a little more distance out of the rotation.”
The A’s finished off a seven-game road trip going 4-3, but only one of those games saw their starter go past five innings, and even that was just 5⅔ by Mike Fiers against the Twins.
Cahill turned in his shortest outing of the season, giving up four runs — three earned — on five hits over 3⅓ innings. His six walks issued were a season high, and the most hehas issued in a start since walking six on Sept. 1, 2014 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
After the A’s (80-54) went ahead 3-2 in the third on Stephen Piscotty’s two-run double off Dallas Keuchel, Cahill began to fall apart in the fourth. He walked Yuli Gurriel to lead it off and followed that up by allowing four consecutive batters to reach base, including a walk of Alex Bregman with the bases loaded to give the Astros the lead before getting pulled for Shawn Kelley with just one out.
Faced with a tough task against the Astros’ middle of the order, Kelley was able to strike out Jose Altuve, who struck out four times in a game for the first time in his eight-year big league career.
Kelley then induced an inning-ending ground-out against Carlos Correa in a masterful display of damage control to keep the deficit at one run.
The A’s managed to tie the game in the seventh without even recording a hit. After three walks in a row, Stephen Piscotty was hit by a pitch to bring in a run, but the A’s ended up stranding the bases loaded as both Matt Olson and Nick Martini popped out to end the threat.
Ramon Laureano continued to shine on defense as he made a play reminiscent of Willie Mays’ 1954 World Series over-the-shoulder catch in the second inning.
Tony Kemp drove a ball that looked to be headed for the wall and likely extra bases with Laureano playing shallow in center, but the speedy outfielder raced back to make the catch.