OAKLAND – Athletics manager Bob Melvin warned of the Houston Astros being a much different team than the one his squad overwhelmed the first dozen times they played this season.
Melvin talked of an Astros team that isn’t afraid to take chances, one that has settled on a new assemblage of talent and can’t be taken lightly.
As if on cue, the Astros beat the A’s in the opening game of the teams’ three-game series and backed it up with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night before 18,278 at the Coliseum.
The Astros scored the decisive run on a double in the 11th inning by backup catcher Carlos Corporan off A’s reliever Sean Doolittle.
The A’s now trail the Rangers by two games in the American League West, the first time they have been that far back since June 2.
For that, the A’s owe back-to-back losses to an Astros team that they beat 11 of the first 12 times they played this season.
Coincidentally, the A’s lost both games this series right after noted Astros killer Chris Young came within inches of adding to his lore.
Center fielder Young hit what he thought was a game-winning home run both times, only to be stunned by the actual outcome.
Astros left fielder Robbie Grossman on Wednesday night leaped above the left-field wall to snare a Young drive with two outs in the 10th. He waited until he got near first base before he displayed the ball Young thought disappeared into the night.
On Tuesday night, Young hit what he thought was a game-ending, two-run home run in the ninth. However, the third-base umpire signaled foul ball. A review of the play supported the initial call.
Both times, Young looked on in disbelief, with both hands on his helmet.
The Astros relied upon a barrage of hits and five runs off A’s ace Bartolo Colon in the first game. On Wednesday, the Astros trotted out one of their top prospects in right-hander Jarred Cosart.
Fortunately for the A’s, they had Jarrod Parker on the mound to counter Cosart’s mastery. He entered the game with a career-high six-game win streak over his previous 13 starts. He last lost a game May 22.
Parker and Cosart matched each other almost pitch for pitch through the first six innings, with neither pitcher getting into much trouble.
Former A’s top prospect Chris Carter ended a scoreless game with a towering home run to left field on the first pitch from Parker in the seventh inning.
Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes gave brief chase before he stopped and watched the ball land well into the bleachers for Carter’s 22nd home run of the season.
Again, Parker got victimized by the long ball. The one he allowed to Carter marked the 18th of the season. He allowed only 11 all last season.
The A’s responded with a run off reliever Philip Humber in the bottom of the seventh, courtesy of an RBI double by Brandon Moss. Humber worked out of the jam afterward.
Parker faced the minimum number of hitters through the first three innings, and he allowed only two singles and a walk through five innings.
The Astros managed three singles in the sixth. However, the A’s turned a double play after the first hit and got out of the inning on a grounder to first baseman Moss.
— Corporan also is the guy that broke up Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish’s no-hitter in the eighth inning Monday. He entered the game against the A’s on Wednesday as a defensive replacement for Jason Castro.
— Regular lead-off hitter and center fielder Coco Crisp didn’t start for the third straight game as a result of a sore left wrist.
“We gave him a little injection last night, which probably sets him back a day or two,” Melvin said.
Crisp is available to pinch-run until his return to the lineup. Alberto Callaspo batted lead-off Wednesday night for the first time since he signed with the A’s.
Callaspo failed to bunt over Eric Sogard in the eighth and 11th innings after Sogard led off both innings with a double.
— Jed Lowrie received a day off Wednesday. Melvin said the rest for his starting shortstop had more to do with how much Lowrie has played this season than it did with Lowrie getting hit in the right knee on a pick-off throw at second base Tuesday night.
Eric Sogard started at shortstop Wednesday. Lowrie pinch-hit in the 11th and struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch.