The Athletics ran into Justin Verlander on Tuesday night and, as he tends to do, Verlander shut them right down. Six strikeouts in six scoreless innings. To their credit, the A's forced Verlander to throw 110 pitches in those six innings. They fouled away 29 -- 29! -- pitches.
The A's went quietly against Chris Devenski in the seventh and Joe Smith in the eighth, and it appeared their three-game winning streak would come to an end. When you've won 17 of your past 21 games, there's no shame in dropping a game to Verlander and the 'Stros.
The game went into extra innings and, in the 11th, Stephen Piscotty gave the A's a 5-4 lead with a solo homer against Collin McHugh. Four straight games with a dinger for Piscotty. He's been incredible of late.
With All-Star closer Blake Treinen ready for the save, it appeared the Athletics were about to win for the 18th time in their past 22 games. Alas, the Astros spoiled the fun.
Josh Reddick started the 11th inning with a walk and the recently called up Kyle Tucker pushed him to third with a single. The Astros had men on the corners with no outs and were in good position to tie the score. And tie it they did when catcher Jonathan Lucroy couldn't handle the throw from Semien on Tony Kemp's grounder. The infield was in and Semien got the ball to the plate in time, but Lucroy couldn't handle the short hop. Reddick scored to tie things up at 5-5.
What happened next is straight up weird. With one out, Alex Bregman hit a tapper along the first base foul line that traveled literally two feet. Statcast measured it at two feet. Two. The ball hooked fair, Lucroy picked it up, tried to apply the tag on Bregman and, well, just look. Look at this:
Oy vey. Lucroy dropped the ball during the tag attempt, picked it up, threw to first for the force-out, and the ball hit off Bregman's helmet. It sailed down the right-field line, allowing Tucker to score the game-winning run (HOU 6, OAK 5). Rough 11th inning for Lucroy.
Watching the game live, I thought home plate umpire Shane Livensparger called the ball foul. He threw his arms up like it was foul, but it turns out he was indicating Bregman was not out on the tag because Lucroy dropped the ball. It seems first baseman Mark Canha thought Livensparger called the ball foul as well because he didn't make much of an effort to catch Lucroy's throw, although that might have been because of the ball's change of direction after hitting Bregman's helmet.
The umpires reviewed the play to determine whether the ball was actually foul, and it was confirmed fair. Lucroy picked it up in fair territory and everything went downhill from there. He owned it after the game, too.
Despite a high degree of difficulty on that final play, Lucroy makes no excuses and says it was all on him. “I messed that up,” he says. No complaints about the call or the bad breaks on the play.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) July 11, 2018
An incredible ninth inning comeback and Piscotty's go-ahead home run were all washed away by a little tapper that rolled literally two feet. This game can be so weird sometimes.