July 12-- HOUSTON-Any reservations about the A's being a legit team can be laid to rest. They're good.
After taking two out of three from the Indians this past weekend, the A's mounted another late-inning comeback in Thursday's 6-4 victory over the Astros to take three out of four from the defending World Series champions in their own house and make it two-straight series wins over first place teams.
The A's (53-41) are currently the hottest team in baseball. Their 19 wins over the past 24 games are the most in baseball during that time, and they are a season-high 12 games over .500, the most games over since the end of the 2014 season when they last made the postseason.
The only thing that kept the A's from a sweep was Wednesday's bizarre loss that featured an ending you'll probably only see once in a lifetime. But they're more than glad to take three of four.
"We've been playing really well and came into this series really confident," A's third baseman Matt Chapman said. "To be in every game and come out with three feels really good. It confirms what we've been feeling."
As they've done so often over this impressive stretch, the game-winning run came in the eighth inning off the bat off Mark Canha, who smacked a go-ahead two-run double to left off Chris Devenski.
It was the 10th time in their last 23 victories the A's have scored the game-winning run in the eighth inning or later, with their 69 runs scored in the eighth inning this season the most in the majors.
"When you do it so many times, you have confidence doing it," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It was some different guys today, too. At this point it's a true team effort and that's powerful when you have 25 guys contributing. Doesn't surprise me that we came up with the at-bats we did."
Facing a 3-2 count against Devenski with runners on second and third and an open first base, Canha was just trying to stay alive. He fouled off a slider and fastball, then got the slider again on the seventh pitch of the at-bat and pulled it to left.
"An open base which always makes everything harder because you never know how or if they're gonna attack you," Canha said. "I just kept that in my mind and told myself to not try to do too much and feel out the at-bat. I think I did a good job of just getting into the rhythm and figure out how he was gonna pitch."
Canha's clutch hit came shortly after Matt Chapman's game-tying double to left earlier in the inning, capping off the comeback from what was a 4-0 deficit after just three innings.
Though the A's have become known for their power, especially on the road as their 82 road homers lead the majors, they've also been impressively patient at the plate. They drew 20 walks against Astros (62-34) pitchers this series, a key to producing early exits from the many tough arms in Houston's starting rotation, like Charlie Morton after just 4 1/3 innings Thursday.
"They're a good lineup. Work counts, swing at strikes, and usually take balls," Astros manager AJ Hinch said after Wednesday's game. "That's one of the reasons they've been one of the hottest teams in MLB. It's kinda their calling card, and when they do it right, the at-bats never seem to end."
Canha himself made Astros pitchers throw 22 pitches over his four at-bats on the day, finishing 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
"It's a good feeling to have when you have a guy like Morton on the mound and get him off the mound early, that's big," Canha said. "We're doing a really good job of making these starters throw a lot of pitches. With the level of starting pitchers we're facing day in and day out, that's going a long way."
With Trevor Cahill lasting just 3 2/3 innings due to an 85-pitch limit in his first start back from the disabled list, the A's got another great effort from their bullpen as well. Chris Hatcher, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, and Lou Trivino combined to allow just one run in 5 2/3 innings of relief, with Petit turning in his fourth consecutive outing of two innings or more with 2 1/3 shutout innings.
Melvin said Petit was "on fumes" after the recent heavy workload, but still managed to retire the Astros top of the lineup in George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve, in order for his last inning of work in the seventh.
"I was trying to get him out of that game but he would not let me take him out of the game with those guys coming up," Melvin said. "He goes, 'Just get somebody going behind me and I'll be fine.' He had their best hitters at the top to deal with."
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