Auckland wins second in a row

Oakland, CA – Pat met the ball and Luis Garcia hung his head. He took two steps forward and chose not to follow the baseball path. One swing exacerbated a slew of fouls, the kinds Garcia never made during his three-year major league career. Control is never his problem.

His absence Wednesday began his downfall. Garcia committed two cardinal offenses in the third half of a goalless match. Chad Bender crushed a hanging slider for a Grand Slam win to make the right flank regret it. Two of the four runs that Bender chased were reached by walking four pitches. Both free passes arrived with two outs.

Pinder’s grand slam magnified Garcia’s inability to harness any control. The deficit created in four runs proved too big to be overcome by a team full of substitutes. Houston sat down with Jose Altove and Yuli Gouriel on Tuesday while still missing Michael Brantley.

The hitters who remained were unable to solve a series of four painkillers. The Oakland team retired in the last 12 Astros in order, giving Houston their second straight loss, 5-3, at the Colosseum. Team A, who now holds a record 37-63, have taken five of the past six matches from the Astros.

“We had some chances, but they beat us,” said manager Dusty Baker. “What can you say?”

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Garcia threw 108 high throws of his career and marched on his career—the worst of four hits. Three of his free passes reached four courts. Garcia threw only 63 of his pitches for strikes and failed to harness any command for his four-stitch fastball. He threw 47 of the four water cannons and only received six hits. Garcia received 15 strikes called throughout the evening.

“I was feeling weird on the hill,” Garcia said. “I’ve been a lot of time without showings here, so maybe that’s one of the reasons, but I have to throw in the punches.”

Absence of leadership is abnormal. Garcia threw 65 percent of his playing field for strikes in the 17 starts before that. He only walked 2.6 strokes per nine runs.

There are only two major groups of leagues running below the top spot. The single group produced combustion. Garcia hit five of the top seven hitters he saw before collapsing during the third inning 34 degrees.

Garcia needed 66 pitches to get his first nine players on Tuesday, and he continued the worrying trend. Garcia needed 67 shots to finish four rounds during his last start before the All-Star break. Against the Yankees last week at Minute Maid Park, Garcia walked through four rounds across 79 stadiums. Incompetence is unwise given Houston’s position on the show. The team is still posting a six-man rotation and, as a result, running a short man in its center.

“I’ve been struggling with the last three, maybe, starting from that,” Garcia said. “I think I have to keep improving and try not to throw too many pitches before the fifth. I want to be late in the game because it helps the team, it helps me, it helps the team, it helps everyone.”

Garcia’s downfall began during the third inning when nine-hole hitter, Jonah Pride, beat a deep birdie on the six-hole to score Oakland’s first hit. He recovered to retire the advancing man of the mail machine on a slow roll to the right side.

Someone separated it from a negative frame. Garcia couldn’t get it. It resulted in back-to-back four-pitch walks of Ramon Laureano and Sean Murphy, missing five incisors and three of four stitches. Shooting instructor Josh Miller visited a hill to settle down for the start.

Garcia led on the Pinder 1-2, but failed to find the pitch. Pinder spoiled a slider with a two-stroke and four-stroke before pouncing on Garcia’s blunder—a slider that didn’t break below the strike zone. The baseball hit 412 feet and gave Frankie Montas a four-way advantage.

Montas made his second start since a bout of shoulder inflammation kept him sidelined before breaking the All-Star. It’s Oakland’s most valuable trade chip ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, and it’s a solid right with a devastating slider/divider combination. Maintaining its health and value is critical.

Montas threw 53 shots in his previous start. The Astros forced him to throw a 78 on Tuesday. Oakland bet on a win by four games after three rounds. Montas could not protect her. Clutch hung to start the fourth. Kyle Tucker redirected her 425 feet to the right field benches, a response his team desperately needed after the horrific Garcia III.

Houston handled Montas well despite the paltry production. The Astros hit him seven times, made three walks and hit him only four times. The exit velocity averaged 91.7 mph on the 17 balls I shot in play against him, indicating some bad luck in a frustrating game.

“Frankie Montas hasn’t had a booze tonight, yet,” Baker said. “We’ve seen him better, but he knows how to shoot and he’s done well enough to stop our attack.”

Leading three times, Team A tried to press a fifth tire from Montas. He bought two outs before mid-order Houston to see him for the third time. Jeremy Peña hit a single and Yordan Alvarez led him into a double field into a deep.

Machin threw the ball home to Alex Bergman from third base, allowing Alvarez to score and ran the equaliser to the scoring center. Aledmys Díaz flew to corner him. No other Astro has arrived.

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