A’s will have six months to play the “what if” game

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There was no October… er, September 30 meltdown for the A’s. They blew leads in the ninth and 12th to lose their sudden death game, but it was more about the Royals winning it than the A’s losing it. Except for a couple of error-non-errors from shortstop Jed Lowrie and the unfortunate outfield collision on Eric Hosmer’s triple in the 12th, they played a really good game. They’ll certainly be wondering what might have happened had they played it at full strength, though.

In the third inning Tuesday night, they lost catcher Geovany Soto to a thumb injury, the result of a fluky tag play at home plate after a busted delayed steal from Billy Butler. Soto was the Athletics’ lone hope of controlling the running game. Jon Lester certainly wasn’t going to do it, and Soto offered a stronger arm than Derek Norris behind the plate, so much so that the A’s were willing to pair Soto with Lester after they never worked together during the regular season.

The Royals swiped six bases after Soto departed, four of them coming in the three-run eighth. Their winning run in the 12th came after Norris botched a pitchout, dropping the ball when he had a chance to throw out Christian Colon at second base to preserve the tie and send the game to the 13th.

Oakland also lost Coco Crisp to a hamstring problem in the 11th inning, forcing them to move Sam Fuld to center and install Jonny Gomes in left. It was another obvious blow to the defense, and it proved huge in the 12th, when Eric Hosmer hit a triple to left-center just out of reach of both Fuld and Gomes. Had Fuld been in left instead of running over from center, there’s a realistic chance he would have caught the ball. Hosmer went on to score the tying run on an infield single, and the Royals won the game on Salvador Perez’s shot to left.

With a healthy Soto, there’s a great chance the A’s would have cut Kansas City’s eighth-inning rally short and won in regulation. With a healthy Crisp, they might have closed out the game in the 12th. Without either, they’re looking at another too long winter and a window for contention that could soon close.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.