There are a lot of things that are hard to explain right now. Why, for example, a team with the success of the Dodgers this year could suddenly lose 15 of 16 or that the Cleveland Indians could win 18 straight and take the top AL spot away from the Astros who've held it seemingly all season. For their part, the Astros who seemed almost unbeatable the first half of the season, slogged through a losing month of August before blasting off to seven straight wins.
Hinch: Wondering when relief arrives
(c) Associated Press
Seemingly everything was back in order. The Astros got the ace pitcher they felt they needed, returned several wounded warriors from the Disabled List including Carlos Correa and recaptured the momentum just in time. Then they traveled to Oakland.
The Athletics had the worst record in the AL West. Houston had beaten them 10 of 12 times this year and were 6-0 by the Bay. The A's had traded away good players too like Sonny Gray, Yonder Alonzo and Sean Doolittle. They appeared to be playing out the string with youngsters.
But those youngsters got revenge on the Astros with a vengeance. After showing resilience on Friday to overtake the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, the Athletics wore out the Astros in a doubleheader Saturday and then finished off the sweep Sunday with a 10-2 thrashing of Dallas Keuchel and a beleaguered bullpen.
Keuchel tossed four shutout innings but allowed a solo homer to Matt Chapman on a 3-1 pitch in the fifth. Houston tied it in the sixth when Alex Bregman singled home Jose Altuve.
Wildness struck Keuchel at exactly the wrong time. Jed Lowrie opened the sixth with a single and Khris Davis took a 3-2 pitch for a walk. One out later, Matt Olson walked. Then Chapman walked to plate a run. Then Mark Canha was hit by a pitch. Then Marcus Semien walked. Suddenly, it was 4-1 Oakland on just one hit.
It didn't end there. Francis Martes gave up two additional runs, Luke Gregerson allowed three and Tony Sipp gave up a final run on Oakland's fourth homer of the day to complete the 10-2 rout and the sweep.
The Astros can lick their wounds on Monday as they head south to visit the Angels of Anaheim (73-70) starting Tuesday night. Justin Verlander (11-8) may need to toss a complete game if he hopes to win against Garrett Richards (0-0) who has battled injuries all season. Richards tossed 3-1/3rd innings in his first appearance since surgery back in the spring. The first pitch will be 9:07 Central at the Big A.
Houston's magic number to win the division is 7 with 20 games left. Most likely, the clincher will come during the next homestand so, if you're a good prognosticator, you can buy tickets to be there when they claim their first ever AL West Division crown.
- Bob Hulsey