A's hurt by another forgettable fourth inning, drop series to Astros

Justice delos Santos, The Mercury News on

Published in Baseball

OAKLAND, Calif. — For a second time in the last three days, the A’s were sunk by a disastrous fourth inning.

Max Schuemann’s two-error sequence in the fourth paved the way for the Astros’ five-run frame and starter Aaron Brooks’ early exit, resulting in a 5-2 loss to drop the series on Sunday at the Coliseum.

“Definitely a frustrating moment, for sure,” Schuemann said. “I don’t like making bonehead mistakes like that; I don’t think anybody does. I’m human. I’m going to make bonehead mistakes here and there. Just happens. You have to move on, find a way to compete for the rest of the way.”

Houston scored the game’s first run in the fourth by way of Yainer Diaz’s sacrifice fly, and that appeared to be all the Astros would score in the frame. With two outs and a runner on first, Mauricio Dubon chopped a grounder to Schuemann, who had plenty of time to flip to second for the inning-ending force out.

Instead, Schuemann not only fumbled the exchange but hurriedly flipped the ball past second baseman Zack Gelof, giving the Astros runners at second and third with two outs.

When asked about Dubon’s grounder, Schuemann said the play felt like “a pretty easy one,” which added to the frustration.

“Just screwed it up,” Schuemann said. “That falls on me. I need to be better. Ultimately, I hate it for Brooks. He had to make some extra pitches there when he should’ve been out of the inning.”

Defense has been an issue for the A’s almost all season, as they entered Sunday tied for last in Major League Baseball with 38 errors. Their fielding percentage of .981 was next to last among all 30 teams.

Schuemann’s fourth-inning mistake, in essence, cost Oakland the ballgame.

Following the error, Jose Altuve drove in two runs with a single, then Kyle Tucker followed with a two-run shot, his major league-leading 18th home run of the season. Instead of being down one run, the A’s were down five.

Brooks, who threw an extra 13 pitches following the error, was only charged with one earned run across 4 1/3 innings.

“They have a good team over there, a good lineup,” Brooks said. “They got … another out to play with, and they took advantage. I made a couple of mistakes that inning, and they made us pay.”


Schuemann hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, his third of the season, but the one swing couldn’t make up for his two defensive miscues.

“He’s a young player,” said A’s manager Mark Kotsay. “The game kind of speeds up sometimes when you have a mistake. He’ll learn from that and move forward.”

The shortstop’s homer would be the only run the A’s would score against Houston’s Ronel Blanco, who, in seven innings, allowed one run, one walk, and struck out six. Sunday was Blanco’s first start since May 14, when he was ejected and subsequently suspended for 10 games due to a sticky substance found inside his glove.

“He’s been great all year,” Kotsay said of Blanco. “He came out of the start against us … and he had the same command of everything. The slider was probably better today against us. The changeup is his pitch, his weapon. He used it effectively.”

On Friday, the A’s suffered through an equally brutal fourth inning. Ross Stripling, placed on the injured list before Saturday’s game, retired the first nine batters but allowed six runs on eight hits in the fourth, pulled from the game before completing the frame.

“You look back on Friday night, we had one inning,” Kotsay said, “and today, we had one inning that we let the game slip away from us.”

Left-hander Jack O’Loughlin, selected from Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday, threw three scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his major-league debut, striking out slugger Yordan Alvarez looking in the ninth.

“I would definitely rate it as better than you could ever expect,” O’Loughlin said.

O’Loughlin, 24, became the 37th player born in Australia to play in the big leagues, sharing that playing in the majors wasn’t on his mind until he was around 12. The left-hander signed with the Tigers in July 2016 and spent parts of six seasons in the minor leagues, undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020.

Shea Langeliers chipped in a solo home run off Josh Hader in the ninth inning that barely cleared the center-field fence, his 11th homer of the year.

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