Evan Gattis belted his second career grand slam, one of three home runs smacked by the Houston Astros in their 7-3 victory over the host Kansas City Royals on Friday at Kauffman Stadium.
Gattis continued his impressive power surge this month by yanking a 2-2 fastball from Royals right-hander Jakob Junis (5-7) to center field in the sixth inning, following a succession of singles from Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Josh Reddick. Gattis, who added a double in the eighth and finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs, has recorded seven homers and 22 RBIs in June.
The Astros extended their winning streak to nine games with the power display. Gattis pushed Houston to a 6-3 lead with his 14th home run on the season.
Alex Bregman and Correa launched solo shots off Junis in the fourth inning to erase a two-run deficit. Bregman homered to left for his ninth dinger; Correa cranked a 455-foot shot to left two batters later for his 12th.
The Royals have dropped 11 of 13 games. Right fielder Jorge Soler, third on the team with 28 RBIs, left the game in the top of the seventh after tripping and falling out of the batter’s box in the sixth inning. X-rays revealed a fracture of the left first metatarsal in his foot, the Royals announced.
Astros right-hander Charlie Morton (8-1) was the beneficiary of the run support, overcoming a bout of wildness in the fifth inning that included three consecutive walks. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas forced in Paulo Orlando when he reached via free pass to lift Kansas City to a 3-2 lead. Orlando and Abraham Almonte, who walked for a second consecutive plate appearance after Orlando reached on an infield single, scored in the Royals’ two-run third.
With two outs in the third, Moustakas drilled a two-run double to right field that gave the Royals a 2-0 lead. Moustakas finished 1-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs. After issuing the walk that put the Royals ahead, Morton induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of catcher Salvador Perez to limit the damage. Morton returned and recorded two strikeouts in the sixth.
Morton allowed three runs on four hits and four walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Junis, who fanned Gattis twice before allowing the grand slam, surrendered six runs on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. He allowed at least three homers in a start for the fourth time this season.
OAKLAND — At this point, the A’s are just glad to see the Houston Astros get out of town.
Swept over a three-game series as they fell to the Astros 7-3 Thursday, the A’s have now lost seven in a row to Houston and are 1-8 against the defending World Series champions this season.
The meetings between the two teams have not been very competitive. After winning their first matchup of the season, the A’s have served as a punching bag for the Astros, outscored 70-28 over the nine games.
But perhaps an even bigger loss came during the game when Matt Chapman was removed from the game with what A’s manager Bob Melvin described as a hand contusion.
Though Chapman’s left hand was swollen after he was hit on his left hand with a fastball Tuesday night, it was the right hand that began to bother Chapman, leading to Chad Pinder replacing Chapman at third base to begin the seventh inning.
“It’s been bothering him progressively for the last few days,” Melvin said. “He’s been swinging the bat well and wanted to stay in the lineup, but it just got the point today where a couple of swings looked to me like it was bothering him.”
Chapman dealt with the same injury last November when he began his offseason hitting routine and began to feel discomfort in his right hand. He told the team and was sent for X-rays back then, but the results came back negative and Chapman decided to just take a break from swinging until January.
After feeling fine swinging the bat in January and February, Chapman began to feel the pain again during spring training and received a cortisone shot. The pain had lingered throughout the season, but it reached a boiling point Thursday.
“I was trying to push through it and obviously just couldn’t do it anymore,” Chapman said. “The last couple of days I really started noticing it again. It probably wasn’t good of me to not say anything. I wanted to be out there for the team, but at the same time, you can’t hurt the team.”
Chapman was scheduled to undergo an MRI at some point Thursday. He was shut down for nearly three months after receiving the cortisone shot in spring.
With the way Chapman had been swinging the bat lately, entering the day hitting .252 with 10 home runs and having reached base safely in seven straight games, losing the third baseman for any extended amount of a time would be a tough blow.
“I think it’s normal wear and tear but it flared up on me today,” Chapman said. “My hand was kind of swelling up. We’re gonna get an MRI and go from there.”
Chapman had an uncharacteristic bad day on defense. Entering the day leading the league in defensive runs saved, he made two costly errors in the sixth.
Battling the brutal sun at the Coliseum, Chapman dropped a usually routine pop up that ended up striking him on the neck, allowing Brian McCann to lead off the inning by reaching first. A few batters later, Chapman’s shot at a double play went awry when he stepped on third base for a force out and airmailed his throw to first. The ball rolled down the right field line and allowed a run to score, with another run coming in on a double by Jose Altuve the next at-bat to put the Astros (45-25) ahead by six runs.
Chapman said the club knew about the injury by the sixth inning and had planned to pull him all along to begin the seventh.
“I don’t like to feel like I cost the team runs,” Chapman said. “I’ve been swinging the bat well and unfortunately this kind of stuff happens. Bad timing. It’s frustrating, especially when you’re playing well. Kind of an upsetting day. I’m just frustrated right now.”
As was the case throughout the series, the A’s (34-35) found themselves in a hole before they even got a chance to bat after Frankie Montas surrendered two runs in the first inning, which was the amount of runs he had allowed in his previous two starts combined.
Montas was tagged for seven runs, five earned, on 11 hits and four walks with a strikeout over 5 1/3 innings of work as he suffered his first loss of the season.
“He went up against a team that’s swinging the bat well right now and it looked like every ball he got in the middle of the plate, similar to everybody in the series with us, they hit,” Melvin said. “Probably other times I’d get him out of there earlier, but where we were with our bullpen, he knew he had to be out there a while. He stuck it out for his team, but probably not as good as he was the last few times out.”
Facing Justin Verlander for the first time since 2016, the A’s made a few dents in his line with a solo home run from Khris Davis and two-run homer from Matt Olson, but the right-hander still turned in seven strong innings, allowing just the three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
— With his injury only getting worse, Trevor Cahill was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right achilles. The right-hander was walking around in a walking boot in the clubhouse before Thursday’s game. The assignment to the DL was retroactive to Monday, but after originally only expecting Cahill to miss a start, Melvin was unsure how much longer he will be out.
“We thought we had a chance to get him back and it just wasn’t the case,” Melvin said. “We really have no idea how long it will be. I’m not even going to try to handicap it because when I do, I end up looking like a fool.”
Cahill heads to the DL for the second time this season 1-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts.
Chris Bassitt was recalled from Triple-A and will get the start Friday against the Angels. He was impressive filling in for Cahill last week against the Royals in what was his first big league outing since 2016, allowing just one run on three hits and one walk with six strikeouts over seven innings of work.
“He’s had a tough year to this point but it’s kind of come full circle for him,” Melvin said. “I know he’s in a pretty good mood right now and when he got here, he had a big smile on his face. Though sometimes it doesn’t look great for you, things can change real quickly.”
— Matt Joyce (back strain) will take batting practice before Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels and begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville Monday.
— Needing a fresh arm in the bullpen, left-hander Danny Coulombe was optioned to Triple-A Nashville before Thursday’s game. Right-hander Carlos Ramirez was called up from Nashville to fill Coulombe’s spot in the bullpen.
The Houston Astros will seek to continue their dominance over the Oakland Athletics when the contending clubs in the American League West open a three-game series on Tuesday night.
Lance McCullers, already 2-0 against the A’s this season, and Daniel Mengden, a Houston native who has struggled in his career against the Astros, are scheduled to get the call in the series curtain-raiser.
The Astros have won five of six from the A’s this season, including two of three when the teams met in Oakland in May.
McCullers and Mengden went head-to-head in Houston in April, with the Astros rolling to an 11-0 victory.
McCullers (7-3, 3.94) also pitched well, albeit without as much offensive support, when he beat the A’s 4-2 in Oakland in May.
The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA in six career starts against the A’s, although he hasn’t been nearly as good in Oakland (1-0, 6.75) as he’s been against the A’s at home.
The Astros have opened a 10-game trip with four straight wins over Texas, with Saturday’s 4-3 triumph moving them into a first-place tie with Seattle and Sunday’s 8-7 victory helping them temporarily remain there.
A trip to Oakland provides a homecoming of sorts for Astros catcher Max Stassi, a Northern California native who took advantage of an injury to starter Brian McCann last month to carve out more of a regular role with the club.
He went 4-for-9 with two doubles on Houston’s last trip to Oakland, and Saturday registered one of his personal highlights with a 466-foot home run, the longest of his career, against Texas.
“You catch a winner and get a hit, as a catcher, you feel pretty good about your night,” noted Astros manager A.J. Hinch, himself a former catcher. “You catch a winner and hit a homer, you feel that much better.”
The A’s, meanwhile, opened a 10-game homestand by taking three of four from Kansas City. They stand fourth in the West but get a chance to improve their standing in the next six games, when they will be playing the Astros and Los Angeles Angels, two teams currently ahead of them.
Mengden (6-5, 3.45) is scheduled twice during those six games. He’s won four of his last five starts since the last time he saw the Astros.
After the disastrous head-to-head with McCullers, in which he had to be pulled in the third inning, he pitched well in a 4-1 home loss to the Astros in May.
Mengden has never beaten the Astros in his career, going 0-4 with a 6.23 ERA in six starts.
The A’s used Monday’s day off to get closer Blake Treinen a break. He went the final 1 2/3 innings for the save in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Kansas City, the major-league-leading sixth time he’s recorded saves of more than one inning.
Afterward, Treinen was happy to share the credit with shortstop Marcus Semien, whose diving stop helped retain a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth, and Matt Chapman, whose leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning provided the eventual game-winning run.
“Chapman made a great swing,” Treinen observed, “but that swing doesn’t get us the win if Marcus doesn’t make that play.”