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Cole Irvin struggles as Astros sweep Oakland with 6-3 win

Mercury News logo Mercury News 8/14/2022 Madeline Kenney, Bay Area News Group

Two weeks after Cole Irvin’s sharp pitching led to the Astros being swept in a series for the first time since last September, the American League leaders and right-hander Cristian Javier flipped the script on the A’s this weekend in Houston.

Irvin struggled Sunday as the Astros beat the last-place A’s 6-3 for the three-game series sweep.

Javier (7-8) allowed only one hit and walked three batters while striking out six in six innings of work. After the Astros manager Dusty Baker went to the bullpen, Oakland tried to put together a late-game rally but fell short en route to the A’s eighth straight loss.

Irvin (6-10) has been one of the best pitchers in the MLB since July, posting a 1.88 ERA entering Sunday’s game. But the Astros were able to get to him early, with Alex Bregman smacking a two-run homer to left field in the first that put Houston up early.

In the next inning, the Astros continued to do damage. Irvin gave up back-to-back singles to Chas McCormick and Christian Vazquez before José Altuve hit a two-run double to give Houston a 4-0 lead.

Kotsay blamed Irvin’s early game struggles to missed locations on pitches. Irvin settled in as the game went on, retiring nine of 11 batters over the third, fourth and fifth innings. The Astros added another run to the board in the sixth inning after Christian Vazquez hit a single to left field that sent Kyle Tucker home.

“The last inning, he actually executed pitches but they went down and got him,” Kotsay told reporters after the game (via NBC California.) “So sometimes you tip your cap, a combination of just some good hitting and maybe some bad luck with placement of the balls.”

Irvin, who’d allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last seven starts, finished with eight hits and one walks while recording only one strikeout in six innings. The Astros’ five earned runs were the most Irvin allowed in more than six weeks.

The A’s have now given up five or more runs in eight games this month and 11 since the All-Star break.

Oakland’s offense struggled to get anything going, which has been the case this entire series. They failed to cash in on several opportunities, leaving a runner stranded in each of the first four innings.

However, Oakland showed some signs of life late in the game. After going scoreless in 18 straight innings, Nick Allen smacked a home run in the eighth, a solo shot to center field.

Elvis Andrus and Stephen Vogts led off the ninth with back-to-back hits. Oakland added two runs to cut the deficit down to three and had the game-tying run at the plate, but it was a little too late for Oakland.

Kotsay called Javier the “real deal.

“Once he came out of the game, we had some good at-bats and put some hits together and gave us a chance,” Kotsay said. “Again, they fought ‘til the last out.”

The A’s, now 41-74 on the season and losers of 11 of the last 13, are on pace to reach triple-digit losses this season for the first time since 1979.

Rookie spotlight

After getting a hit in each of his first two major-league games, rookie Cal Stevenson went hitless Saturday and Sunday, though he scored a run in the ninth inning after earning a walk.

But Stevenson, whom the A’s acquired last month in a trade that sent utility man Christian Bethancourt to Tampa, showed off his defensive skills at centerfield. Kotsay praised the Fremont native after he contributed to 10 outs Sunday.

“He made some exceptional plays, he’s got instincts, he takes great routes directly to balls, he made several nice catches out there tonight that were impressive,” Kotsay told reporters after the loss.

Injury update

Ramón Laureano is day-to-day after exiting Sunday’s game in the fourth with left side soreness, Kotsay said.

Kotsay said Laureano, who was replaced by Stephen Piscotty, tweaked his side during his second at-bat and dismissed the notion that Laureano hurt himself during a play in the first when he slipped on the warning track while going after a foul ball.

Up next

The A’s will stay in Texas for a four-game series against the Rangers before heading back to Oakland at the end of the week.

Right-hander James Kaprielian (3-6, 4.38) is slated to pitch for Oakland in the series opener Monday. He’s gone 3-1 with 2.35 ERA over seven starts since July 1 after posting a 5.88 ERA in his first 11 starts this season. Meanwhile, it’s unclear who will start the series on the mound for the Rangers as of Sunday afternoon.

©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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