I honestly have no idea what the front office plans to do with their catching situation next season but Evan Gattis is making it difficult for the Astros to ignore him. El Oso Blanco drilled two homers into the California sun Wednesday to lead Houston to a 6-5 sweeper of the Athletics and finish a 5-1 road trip.
Gattis: Clanks helmet after homer
(c) Associated Press
The Astros have a $5.2 million option year on Gattis and it would be hard to believe they would not take it after The Caveman belted his 29th and 30th home runs of the season, giving him 67 RBIs on the year. His OPS has climbed to .828. But can he be a full-time catcher and would he have a stiff price tag to be a backup if, say, Jason Castro is kept or another starter is signed?
Another guy making a late-season push is pitcher Collin McHugh, but this is nothing new for him. The righthander tossed 5-2/3rd innings for the win to go 12-0 in the final month of the season since 2014. McHugh allowed two runs and six hits as the A's nipped at Houston's tail for most of the contest, right up to Castro's throw that nailed pinch-runner Arismendy Alcantara quicker than you can say "Arismendy Alcantara" for the final out.
Oakland took the early lead in the fourth but the Astros quickly answered in the fifth when Marwin Gonzalez scored on a grounder by Jake Marisnick.
Houston opened a lead the next inning when Jose Altuve singled, Carlos Correa launched an RBI double and Gattis lined a hanging curve from Daniel Mengden into the stairway in left for a 4-1 lead.
An RBI double from Bruce Maxwell in the sixth allowed the A's to close the margin but the Astros responded when George Springer doubled in the seventh and eventually beat the throw home after a bouncer by Yulieski Gurriel.
Oakland still fought hard, plating two to push the score to 5-4 before Gattis cracked a no-doubter over the center field wall.
With Luke Gregerson trying to close in the ninth, an error by Altuve allowed Chad Pinder to score and create the final margin but Castro's throw snuffed out the last chance and made for a sweet plane trip home.
Baltimore and Toronto both lost while their wild card pursuers all won except rained-out Detroit so the standings now show Baltimore remaining in the final wild card spot with the Tigers and Astros one game out each. Seattle is two back and the Yankees are 2-1/2 behind. Suddenly, the wild card race looks like rush hour on the North Freeway.
The 81-71 Astros assured themselves of their second straight non-losing season and they can now buckle up for the final seven home games of the year. The Angels of Anaheim swoop in for a four-game weekend set. Former Marlin Ricky Nolasco (6-14) will pitch the opener for Anaheim on Thursday against Mike Fiers (11-7). Game time is 7:10 Central at the Juice Box.
- Bob Hulsey