In what was a tight game for much of the night, the Astros came away with an Opening Day dub in Oakland, 8-1 against the rival A’s. The Houston offense took some time to come alive, failing to push a runner past first base until the fourth inning, when Michael Brantley followed a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve with a hard double as a part of his multi-hit night. He’d be pushed across home on an RBI groundout by Alex Bregman, but A’s starter Chris Bassitt was able to limit the damage to just the one run, keeping the game close in the early going.
On the other side, Zack Greinke cruised through his outing. The veteran was in command all night, retiring the first eight A’s he faced before a two-out double in the third by Elvis Andrus. He recovered from there by striking out Mark Canha, and would face the minimum again in the fourth and fifth, partially assisted by a double play in the former frame.
Zack Greinke, 88mph Changeup and 88mph Fastball (consecutive pitches).
It doesn’t have to make sense, it’s Zack Greinke. pic.twitter.com/PGO9DnA7em
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 2, 2021
It was in the sixth that the Astros were able to really break things open- Michael Brantley recorded a hard hit out to start things off, but from there a Bregman double and Tucker walk chased Bassitt from the game. Reliver Yusmeiro Petit got Carlos Correa to pop out, but then surrendered a two RBI double to Yordan Alvarez, putting the Astros ahead 3-0 before Yuli Gurriel grounded out to end the inning.
With some insurance in hand, Greinke took the sixth and got another double play with no outs to erase a leadoff single. He’d then get Mark Canha to fly out, and finished the frame with just 82 pitches. Nonetheless, he’d be lifted in the 7th following a scoreless frame from the offense. Enoli Paredes would come on for Greinke, and got into trouble quickly when Ramon Laureano led off the inning with a double. Laureano then swiped third during Matt Olson’s plate appearance, flustering Paredes and allowing Olson to work a walk. Matt Chapman followed and took advantage of the free base by delivering a sac fly to narrow the score to 3-1. Trouble seemed to be mounting when Mitch Moreland worked a walk and pushed Olson into scoring position, but Paredes responded by striking out the next two hitters to end the threat.
The A’s new look bullpen had more difficulties in the eighth. Former Ray and Dodger Adam Kolarek was given the frame, and immediately let up back to back home runs off of the bats of Brantley and Bregman. From there things looked like they might get worse, as Kolarek strung together two walks and a hit batsman to load the bases, but ultimately he was able to “escape” with just the two runs scored. Paredes would give way to Joe Smith in the home half, and he had a hard luck outing.
In an inauspicious start, the leadoff man in the inning, Chad Pinder, reached on an errant throw by Bregman, which was followed by an Elvis Andrus swinging strikeout. Canha was next to the plate, and he hit soft flare behind the second base bag which dropped awkwardly, allowing him to reach on an infield single. Ramon Laureano then put a good swing on a ball to center field, but fortunately for Houston it was directly at Myles Straw who put it away for the second out. Dusty Baker then brought in lefty Blake Taylor to face Olson. Taylor got ahead in the count with ease, and then was gifted an awful third strike call to end the inning.
The A’s turned to ex-Astro Reymin Guduan in the 9th, and he faced quite a bit of difficulty in a hurry, allowing a leadoff hit to Jose Altuve before promptly walking Brantley and Bregman to load the bases. Kyle Tucker then made pretty good contact on a flyball to center, scoring Altuve to extend the lead to 5-1. Carlos Correa then lifted a high pop down the first base line and the A’s were unable to get under it, so it went for a single and re-loaded the bases for Yordan Alvarez. Guduan lost a pitch up and in to Yordan, who dove out of the way causing the pitch to fly to the backstop, scoring Brantley and advancing the other runners. Alvarez then crushed a ball to deep center which was caught on the warning track by Laureano, allowing Robel Garcia, who pinch ran for Bregman, and Correa to make it 8-1 and completely take the pressure off the Astros bullpen.
With a comfortable lead, Dusty Baker went with new face Ryne Stanek over presumed closer Ryan Pressly in the bottom of the 9th. Stanek looked sharp, throwing his fastball at 96, and badly tied up Matt Chapman with a slider to start the inning with an out. Ka’ai Tom would then ground out softly on a two strike slide piece, bringing up Jed Lowrie as the A’s last hope. Stanek quickly got ahead 0-2, but ultimately walked Lowrie and then struck Sean Murphy on the wrist with a heater to start the next plate appearance. The drama quickly dissipated, however, when Chad Pinder was retired by way of swinging strikeout to end the game.
The A’s and Astros will run it back tomorrow at 8:40 CT, with a matchup of upstart pitchers on the slate in Cristian Javier vs. Jesus Luzardo.