Astros @ Athletics August 18 Free Play


Last night’s game in Oakland thrilled the casual fan and did even more for us. As the game wound down, it looked like the A’s were only going to cash the runline, especially once Carlos Correa cut down the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning.

But the umpires went to replay and overturned the call on the field, setting the stage for Matt Olson to walk it off an inning later giving us the runline, moneyline and Oakland by one or two margin of victory prop.

Early on, Charlie Morton was just a bit better than Edwin Jackson and, with the help of solo shots by Alex Bregman and Martin Maldonado, had Houston in position to defeat the A’s about the only way you can, by maintaining an early lead. But Houston’s below-average bullpen that has been costing it close games all season, again failed to do the job.

I noticed in yesterday’s preview at Baseball-Reference that the ‘Stros were 16–21 in one-run games prior to last night. It made me wonder if any World Series winners, or even pennant winners, of the past had such a poor record in close games. After all, blowouts may predict future regular season success but close games better represent the postseason (Oakland’s record in one-run games, by the way, is now 26–10).

I didn’t have to go back far to find a World Series champion with a losing record in one-run games. The 2016 Chicago Cubs did, though only by a single game. In 2014, both the Giants and Royals had losing regular season records in one-run games but neither had a record as bad as Houston’s this year. I decided to stop there.

The Astros find themselves in a difficult situation, one in which time seems to be passing them by as they play poor baseball while anxiously waiting for the playoffs, hoping they can get healthy. There’s still time for George Springer, Correa and Chris Devenski to get back into full-swing but I don’t think they have the same hope for Jose Altuve, who is just going to rest as long as he can before taking a couple cortisone shots and toughing it out for a playoff run.

Meanwhile, the A’s are young, healthy and about to run right through the Astros and relegate them to the play-in game. It would have been one thing had the A’s won like this without gaining on the Astros as quickly as they have but now they’re the national story and in the public’s conscience. The days of our permanent green light to back the A’s are coming to an end, though, at even money, they remain playable today and likely again on Sunday.

This play isn’t nearly as strong as last night’s. Houston showed some fight last night and still has enough talent without Altuve to compete with Oakland. Correa moved well in the field, though his bat still hasn’t caught up to the rest of his progress and the same can be said about Springer. Trevor Cahill probably won’t pitch as well as Jackson did but he ought to be a small favorite because even if the A’s do as little against Dallas Keuchel tonight as they did against Morton, they’re just as capable of snatching away another victory from Houston’s bullpen.

Play: Oakland (+100)

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