Prior to the current skid that has featured 12 losses over the past 17 games and an 0-5-1 record in the past six series, the Oakland Athletics made the most of every opportunity in close games.
Over the course of a 162-game schedule, these things tend to balance out, and after dropping a 4-3 decision to the Houston Astros on Wednesday, the Athletics fell to 13-13 in one-run games.
Oakland has dropped six of its past seven one-run games heading into the finale of a three-game series at Houston on Thursday.
“We’re going through a bad streak where it seems like everything that can go wrong is at this point,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ve just got to continue to grind. Early in the season, these types of games we were winning, and right now we’re not.”
The one big thing that went wrong for Oakland on Wednesday occurred in the sixth inning after the Athletics pulled even at 3-3. Astros left fielder Michael Brantley completed a crucial double play by erasing Ramon Laureano at home plate as he attempted to score on a Sean Murphy flyout.
The second-place Athletics fell to 3-9 against the first-place Astros this year, with Oakland 5 1/2 games out in the American League West.
“It is tough, but we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and make an adjustment,” Laureano said. “Just find a way to turn this thing around and put it behind us and move forward.”
Frankie Montas (7-7, 4.63 ERA) will start on Thursday as Oakland attempts to avert a series sweep.
The right-hander is 2-5 with a 4.38 ERA over his past nine starts, including a no-decision against the Boston Red Sox on Friday, when he allowed two runs on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.
Montas is 5-4 with a 4.06 ERA in 11 career appearances (nine starts) against the Astros, including a 1-1 record and 2.45 ERA in two starts this season.
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (6-1, 2.97 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Thursday.
McCullers is 5-0 with a 2.38 ERA over his past nine starts, with his five-decision winning streak tied with Luis Garcia for the longest by a Houston pitcher this season.
McCullers is 6-2 with a 3.66 ERA over 11 career starts against the Athletics, including a pair of starts to open the season in which he went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts against six walks in 10 innings.
The Astros extended their winning streak to six games Wednesday, improved to 41-19 against teams with at least a .500 record and moved a season-high 21 games over .500. Closing the unofficial first half on a high remains a foremost goal for the Astros, starting with a sweep of Oakland.
“We’re trying to pad (the division lead) some more,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “This is what we talked about. This is what we wanted to do: 5 1/2 is great. It’s better than being 5 1/2 under. We’ve got a big game (Thursday). We’ve still got some work to do (Thursday).”
–Field Level Media