Astros batter A’s 9-2 to complete four-game sweep

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OAKLAND, Calif. – Jason Castro homered in his first start back with Houston, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 9-2 on Sunday for a four-game sweep.

Dusty Baker tied Bill McKechnie for 14th among managers with 1,896 wins.

Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick also homered for the Astros, off to their best start since 2001. Yuli Gurriel had three hits and two RBIs.

Houston outscored the A’s 35-9 in the series with 47 hits, including eight home runs. The Astros became the fourth team in major league history to score eight or more runs in each of its first four games.

“We just had tons of momentum coming in from last year,” McCormick said. “The guys are really hungry. We just crushed them from the first pitch to the last pitch of the whole series. It was cool to watch, cool to be a part of.”

Sweeping the division rival A’s was especially pleasing to the Astros, who were taunted at the Coliseum throughout the series. Houston faces the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal in which Major League Baseball penalized the team ahead of the 2020 season, which was played in empty ballparks due to the pandemic.

Oakland won seven of the 10 games with Houston in 2020 on the way to its first AL West title since 2013.

“You can’t do much better than the start that we had,” Baker said. “You take a quick, fast start anytime. You have to enjoy it while it’s here, try to build off it and keep going from there. We’re leaving out of here mainly feeling good about ourselves with our bullpen strong.”

Mark Canha doubled, tripled and scored twice for the A’s, who are 0-4 for their first time since losing five straight at the start of 1987.

“Look, we don’t feel good about it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “A little bit embarrassing. We played really poorly and they played great. We have to turn things around. It’s not just going to happen.”

Castro was back in the Astros lineup for the first time since leaving Houston as a free agent following the 2016 season. Third on the franchise’s list for games caught entering the year, the 33-year-old Castro is slated for a backup role this season and is likely to share time with Martin Maldonado.

Castro’s home run off Sean Manaea (0-1) in the second came after Myles Straw drew a two-out walk.

Tucker homered off Manaea in the first.

McCormick added a three-run drive off Yusmeiro Petit in the sixth, his first in the majors.

“It was unreal,” McCormick said. “It was an 0-2 count. Rounding the bases I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Brandon Bielak (1-0) pitched 4 2/3 hitless innings of relief with four strikeouts and no walks.

Astros starter Jose Urquidy struck out five in 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hit.

Manaea (0-1) gave up five runs, six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Oakland was held to four hits.

ROOKIE MAKES MOUND DEBUT

Oakland rookie Ka'ai Tom pitched a scoreless ninth inning – after starting the game in left field. Tom retired Jose Altuve and Tucker on infield pop-ups before Alex Bregman reached on an infield single. Yordan Alvarez then grounded out. “It was because our bullpen was beat up over the course of these four games,” Melvin said. “I just didn’t want to have to use another pitcher.”

TRAINERS ROOM

Astros: OF Michael Brantley showed improvement a day after getting hit in the right wrist by a 90 mph fastball, and Baker is cautiously optimistic. “When he’s coming back just depends on his body and how he heals,” Baker said. “We dodged a major bullet by him having no fractures or a broken wrist or anything like that.”

Athletics: RF Chad Pinder is scheduled for an MRI on his left knee Monday after he was taken out not long after making a leaping catch and crashing hard into the fence on Altuve’s deep fly leading off the game. Pinder also made a pair of spectacular catches on opening night. . Sean Murphy (wrist bruise) felt discomfort hitting in the cage before the game and remains out. . Ramon Laureano (sore wrist) is feeling better but was held out.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.92 ERA in 2020) makes his second career start in the first of a two-game series at Anaheim on Monday.

Athletics: Frankie Montas (3-5, 5.60 ERA in 2020) makes his season debut at home against the Dodgers on Monday. Montas hasn’t pitched since coming out of his final spring training start because of a cuticle tear on his right middle finger.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.