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Disastrous fourth inning sinks A's as they drop series opener to Astros

Justice Delos Santos, The Mercury News on

Published in Baseball

OAKLAND, Calif. — Through three innings, Ross Stripling flirted with a start to remember. Midway through the fourth, Stripling departed with a start to forget.

After retiring the first nine batters he faced on Friday night at the Coliseum, Stripling allowed six runs on eight hits and failed to complete the fourth inning as the Oakland A’s fell to the Houston Astros 6-3.

Oakland (21-32), fresh off taking two of three from the Colorado Rockies, has lost all five games against Houston (23-28) this season, being swept at Minute Maid Park earlier this month.

Stripling cruised through the first three innings, needing just 29 pitches to retire every batter he faced the first time through the order. In the first inning, Stripling benefitted from the chilly conditions as Kyle Tucker’s deep drive to center field faded at the warning track. The fourth inning provided no such luck.

Jose Altuve led off the fourth with an infield single, forcing Stripling into the stretch for the first time. Tucker reached on an awkward check-swing single. Yordan Alvarez drove home Altuve with a double. Alex Bregman followed up with a two-run single. Jake Meyers provided the big blow three batters later, turning a hanging slider into a three-run homer that gave the Astros a 6-1 lead.

Altuve, greeted by boos every time he stepped in the box, singled twice in the inning — the first ending Stripling’s bid at perfection, the second ending Stripling’s night. After allowing Altuve to reach for a second time, Stripling was pulled for Kyle Muller, who tossed four shutout innings of long relief.

 

Since tossing six shutout innings on May 1, Stripling has allowed 17 earned runs across 15 1/3 innings (9.98 ERA) in his last four starts. Stripling’s 5.82 ERA is currently the second-worst in the American League and third-worst in baseball among qualified pitchers.

For Justin Verlander, those six runs were more than enough.

Making what was possibly his final start in Oakland, Verlander allowed two runs (one earned) across six innings with nine strikeouts, continuing his dominance at the Coliseum. In 20 career starts in Oakland (including postseason), Verlander owns a 2.35 ERA with 148 strikeouts across 137 2/3 innings.

Miguel Andujar, reinstated from the injured list on Friday afternoon, collected three hits and two RBIs in his Oakland debut, his first-inning RBI single being the second-hardest hit ball of his career (110.8 mph). JJ Bleday homered in a third consecutive game as he launched a solo shot in the fifth inning.


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