By Curtis Pashelka
The unofficial first half of the Major League season was a nightmare at times for the A’s, and Stephen Vogt was among the cadre of Oakland players whose individual performances weren’t up to snuff.
But at least Vogt and the A’s can say it ended on a positive note.
Vogt’s RBI single in the eighth inning proved to be the game-winning hit as the A’s came back to beat the American League West-leading Houston Astros 4-3 on Sunday to win their first series at Minute Maid Park in over a year.
Vogt’s single down the right field line off Astros reliever Rafael Montero scored Chad Pinder from second base to put the A’s up by one. Vogt also added a game-tying RBI sacrifice fly as a pinch-hitter as part of a three-run sixth inning, as Oakland closed the six-game road trip with a 3-3 record.
“Happy for Vogt,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “Anytime you’ve got a veteran player on the bench and a chance to use him in a role to have success, it feels great.”
Vogt entered Sunday with a .137 average in 73 at-bats, a 58-point drop from last season when he had 210 combined at-bats with Arizona and Atlanta. His OPS of .511 is close to 300 points less than it was three years ago in his one season with the Giants.
“Clearly I’m not satisfied with the way I’ve been swinging the bat,” said Vogt, adding that he’s been working diligently with hitting coaches Tommy Everidge and Chris Cron, “and just getting back to being me. A better approach.
“It just feels good to come through for your teammates.”
The A’s hadn’t won a series over the Astros in Houston since April 8-10, 2021, when they won two of three. Oakland had a 2-6 record against the Astros this season, with the first two three-game series at the Coliseum.
Ramón Laureano hit his ninth home run of the season, Chad Pinder had an RBI double and the A’s bullpen threw 4⅔ scoreless innings in the victory. Although the A’s head into the All-Star break with an American League-worst record of 32-61, they have been playing better this month, and now have a 7-8 record in July.
The A’s next have a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, then continue the homestand with three games against Texas, starting Friday, followed by three more against the Astros.
Adam Oller, who was born in nearby Conroe, Texas, had a solid outing until the fifth. With one out, after an infield single by José Altuve, Jeremy Peña swatted a two-run homer to left-center to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.
Oller was officially recalled Sunday morning after the A’s optioned left-hander Jared Koenig to Triple-A Las Vegas, and the game marked his first start since May 14 when he pitched the second game of an A’s double-dip against the Los Angeles Angels.
Sunday’s game was originally James Kaprielian’s turn in the rotation, but Kotsay wanted to give Kaprielian a few extra days rest before he makes his next start.
Oller made five relief appearances for the A’s in June, allowing eight hits and seven walks in 8⅓ innings before he was optioned back to Las Vegas on June 30. The A’s wanted him to work on his fastball command, and in 8⅔ innings over two starts with Las Vegas, he allowed just two walks.
Oller allowed a first-inning solo home run by Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker on a four-seam fastball but got through the next three innings before he ran into trouble in the fifth.
MONTAS UPDATE: Right-hander Frankie Montas felt good after his bullpen session Saturday and has “an opportunity” to start one of the doubleheader games Thursday, Kotsay said.
Montas hasn’t pitched in two weeks as he’s dealt with inflammation in his right shoulder. He exited a July 3 start against the Seattle Mariners after just one inning and two days later, an MRI revealed the inflammation. Montas had a cortisone shot on July 6, and since that point, he and the A’s have been cautious about when he would make his next start.
Prior to his July 3 start, Montas was 3-8 with a 3.20 ERA and was among the American League leaders in games started (16), innings pitched (95.2), strikeouts (99), and opponents’ on-base percentage (.272).
BRIDE UPDATE: Kotsay said infielder Jonah Bride, on the injured list since June 27 with a strained right shoulder, will work out in Oakland on Thursday before the A’s decide whether to send him back to Triple-A Las Vegas or activate him off the IL.
JIMENEZ UPDATE: Kotsay said reliever Dany Jiménez, on the IL since June 19 with a strained right shoulder, will throw a bullpen session at the A’s spring training facility in Arizona on Wednesday, and will begin a rehab assignment when he’s physically ready.
Source: Paradise Post