A sympathetic Dusty Baker nonetheless hopes to add to the host Oakland Athletics’ misery when his Houston Astros go for a second straight win in the three-game series of American League West rivals Saturday afternoon.
With Jose Altuve returning from an illness to man the leadoff spot, the Astros opened the set with a 5-2 victory Friday night, handing the A’s a 20th loss in May with still five days remaining in the month.
Baker, who grew up in Riverside, Calif., and graduated from high school near Sacramento, finished his playing career with the A’s in 1985-86, then watched his son Darren shine at the nearby University of California. Baker acknowledged before the series opener that he’s sad to see his former team possibly relocating to Las Vegas.
“I can understand it business-wise, but sentimentally you hope it didn’t come to this,” he said. “I remember that this stadium had the best sound system in America, and they still do. They were always jamming here. They’re still jamming now.”
The music turned to boos when two catchable pop flies dropped down the left field line in a four-run Astros third inning Friday. A 5-0 lead was plenty for Hunter Brown, who recorded a career-best 10 strikeouts against the slumping club.
Afterward, A’s manager Mark Kotsay lamented “bad luck,” saying his starter, James Kaprielian, had pitched better than the score would indicate.
Kotsay also cited Esteury Ruiz’s major-league-leading 27th steal and Seth Brown’s second home run in two days as things he’d prefer to take away from the evening rather than the club’s ninth straight loss.
“This start can test your character, for sure,” he said. “If we sit here and dwell on the negatives, there’s little chance for us to turn things around. Focusing on the positives in this difficult time … it’s not fake because there are positives. The more we can build on the positives … for me, it’s the right way to think.”
The A’s get no break in Saturday’s pitching matchup, with the Astros set to go with left-hander Framber Valdez (4-4, 2.45 ERA), while Oakland is expected to promote fellow lefty Hogan Harris (0-0, 162.00) from Triple-A either to start or follow an opener.
Valdez shut out the A’s on four hits in a 2-0 home win last Sunday.
The shutout was the first of his career and the complete game his third, two of which have come against the A’s. He also threw a complete-game two-hitter in Oakland last May 30 in a 5-1 win.
The 29-year-old has faced the A’s 10 times in his career, eight times as a starter, going 3-3 with a 2.67 ERA. Four of those starts have been in Oakland, where he’s gone 1-2 with a 1.47 ERA, his lowest ERA against all opponents he’s faced more than once.
Harris has pitched well at Triple-A Las Vegas, posting a 3.77 ERA in eight starts while going 0-1.
The 26-year-old was promoted earlier in the season and made his major league debut in his one and only appearance, a disastrous eight-batter stint at home against the New York Mets in which he allowed one hit, five walks and a hit batsman.
He got just one out while six of the seven baserunners scored.
–Field Level Media