Oakland A outfielder Ramon Laureano and the Houston Astros have prepared a feud this summer, but Laureano had the last laugh on Wednesday, or at least the most recent.
The center fielder lined up a hitting away from center left at the bottom of the 9th inning, breaking the tie and giving Oakland a starting victory over their closest competitor in the AL West Division.
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Laureano was originally drafted by the Astros in 2014, then traded to A’s as part of a minor deal before becoming a star. Tensions run high between the two sides this year, as Houston hit him four times with throws, one of those ankles inspiring a bench clearance brawl that resulted in a four-game suspension for Laureano and a penalty. of 20 games for the coach of Astros who prompted him. On Wednesday, Laureano had the chance to come back in a meaningful way – the standings.
Oakland has fallen into an old habit in this game, falling silent against the opposing starter, then waiting for the game to end to stage a comeback. They didn’t score their first points until the 7th inning, on a Tommy La Stella double-tying bloop that showed exactly why it’s nice to have someone who can make contact in an RBI situation rather than to knock – anything can happen when you make contact. The ball glanced at the Astros outfielder’s leg as he tried to make a slippery catch, and bounced far enough to ensure both runners would score, including wide receiver Sean Murphy since the first goal.
On the other side of the ball, A starter Jesús Luzardo pitched seven solid innings, allowing for a pair of solo homers, but nothing else. Joakim Soria and Liam Hendriks each traded in a scoreless frame to finish it, with Hendriks gaining a win instead of a save to protect a tie at the top of the 9th instead of a lead.
Wednesday was a strange day in the Bay Area, as smoke from nearby wildfires lingered so thick above it that it blocked out the sun and gave the entire sky an eerie yellow-orange tint.
Tatooine isn’t quite the right comparison, as this fictional planet has two suns and a normal sky. Maybe something relatively closer to home.
Or, with ashes sometimes falling from the sky, I would also accept the Upside Down of Strange things. But we’re sticking to the Mars narrative for this recap.
Luzardo’s interplanetary duel
Not only was the game set on Mars, the space-themed Astros were rightly the opponent. Fortunately, Jesus Luzardo was up to the task of representing planet Earth, shooting seven strong innings to keep Houston in check.
Even though Luzardo spent most of the night hanging out on the scoreboard, he at least kept his team close at hand, which came in handy later when they finally struck. The southpaw allowed a pair of homers, but they were each solo hits as he so rarely put anyone on base.
Luzardo: 7 ip, 2 runs, 7 Ks, 1 BB, 2 HR, 4 hits, 100 lancers (60 strikes)
There was some noise, and the circuits could have been more damaging with less chance of sequencing, but overall it was a quality release and we all hope to see more from the ace. budding potential.
Despite that strong line, however, the score was 2-0 in Astros when Luzardo threw his final pitch. It was only at the bottom of the 7th that the A made their choice.
As I have said many times, the reason I am so excited to add Tommy La Stella is that he almost always makes contact, but without sacrificing the quality of his batted balls. In a formation filled with too many jumps and misfires, a little pepper might be the right ingredient to help lead some of the runners they’ve kept leaving in goal position.
The plan worked perfectly that night, in its own way. After putting five goose eggs against the Houston rookie Luis Garcia, pitching only his second career MLB game, Oakland was finally able to work against the Astros Box. In the 7th, the rookies Vimael cars and Sean Murphy everyone drew walks to set the scene. Then, with two strikeouts, La Stella came along and did exactly what he always does: hit the ball somewhere.
It wasn’t a good contact, just a slight bloop down the line to the left, but he found his way into no man’s land in a way that a withdrawal can never do. Left thief Kyle Tucker went into a slide but that only made matters worse, as the ball bounced off his leg and sharply pulled away from him. Both runners scored and the game was suddenly tied.
Oakland couldn’t continue the rally, but they had made their point. Someone else was going to have to score for this game to end.
Revenge of the laser
When he started his suspension for the brawl with the Astros, Ramon Laureano had a .859 OPS and was one of the hottest hitters on the A’s. Since his return, he had averaged .203 and .680 OPS. in 17 games in the early evening. However, he took his revenge on Wednesday.
With the score still tied at the end of 9th, Oakland started their last rally the same way they did in 7th – for free. Murphy walked again and Tony Kemp was hit with a pitch to push the winning point into goal position with no one out. The next two hitters hit the defenseman’s picks, but Laureano pulled it off. He pierced the second pitch he saw at left center for what would normally have been a double, but in this case he only needed to reach first base to complete the game while the winning point trotted quietly across the marble.
It’s the fifth start of the season for the A’s, and it’s the third in Laureano’s career – one every year since 2018.
Define the phasors for the division crown
The A’s now lead the Astros by 5.5 games in AL West, with less than 20 games to play. If Oakland can win the series final on Thursday, they could really put Houston on the sidelines and more or less lock down the division – not mathematically, but realistically.
The final contest will pit Oakland southpaw Sean Manaea against Astros righy Jose Urquidy, starting at 12:40 pm.