Athletics, Semien steamed as Verlander, Astros continue their dominance

Shortstop ejected after would-be extra-base hit ruled a foul ball to kill potential rally in the fifth inning

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Brett Anderson #30 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Houston Astros in the top of the second inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Brett Anderson #30 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Houston Astros in the top of the first inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Josh Reddick #22 of the Houston Astros trots around the bases after hitting a two-run home run off of Brett Anderson #30 of the Oakland Athletics in the top of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Josh Reddick #22 of the Houston Astros is congratulated by Yuli Gurriel #10 after Reddick hit a two-run home run against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Tony Kemp #18 of the Houston Astros get the force out at second base while leaping out of the way of sliding Josh Phegley #19 of the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the fifth inninf of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Manager Bob Melvin #6 of the Oakland Athletics argues with umpires Roberto Ortiz #40 and Stu Scheurwater #85 over a ball called foul off the bat of Marcus Semien #10 (not pictured) during the bottom of the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Yusmeiro Petit #36 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Houston Astros in the top of the eighth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

  • OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 01: Robinson Chirinos #28 and Josh Reddick #22 of the Houston Astros celebrates after Chirinos hit a two-run home run against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the ninth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on June 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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OAKLAND — The Athletics needed a break, and the way Marcus Semien saw it, his blooper down the right field line against Houston starter Justin Verlander was just what his team needed.

Instead, it went into the books as a foul ball, Semien received the first ejection of his life, and the Astros went on to beat the Athletics 5-1 Saturday night before a crowd of 20,425 at the Coliseum.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Athletics, who fell behind Texas into third place in the American League West at 29-29, 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Astros.

Verlander improved his record to 9-2, giving up just a solo home run to Stephen Piscotty (his seventh) in the second inning with two walks and eight strikeouts in eight innings. It happened on a night when the one-time Cy Young award winner actually surpassed Cy Young for 21st on the all-time strikeout list.

The Athletics’ best opportunity against Verlander came with the Astros leading 3-1 in the bottom of he fifth inning with Ramon Laureano on second and Josh Phegley on first with two outs, both having reached on singles.

Semien punched a ball to right field, with right fielder Josh Reddick failing to catch it on a dive near the Houston bullpen. If the ball is fair, Laureano and possibly Phegley come around to score, tying the game, and Semien is in scoring position with Matt Chapman coming to the plate.

First base umpire Alan Porter immediately called it foul. Replays showed the play was excruciatingly close. It was ruled inconclusive and the foul ball call stood. Semien then hit into a force out to end the inning.

Semien’s issue wasn’t with replay. He said he saw white chalk fly on the Coliseum scoreboard replay, and that if Porter had called it correctly, there would be no need for the official replay review.

“If that ball’s called fair it’s a tie game with a runner on third and our best hitter up against the best pitcher in the major leagues,” Semien said. “Any time you’re facing the best pitcher in the league and you have a chance to get an extra base hit that ties the game with your best hitter on deck and it gets called foul, you’re going to be frustrated.

“I think I should have had an RBI double or triple against Justin Verlander. And that’s why I was mad.”

Semien said he argued with Porter, but at the time of the ejection was way out of range and wasn’t even looking at the umpire. Semien said he had never been ejected in the minors, nor in college at Cal, nor in high school at St. Mary’s in Berkeley.

Manager Bob Melvin saw it the same way.

“My problem was that he got ejected when he was 20 yards away from him with his back turned.,” Melvin said. “That’s how I saw it.”

Given that Verlander is pitching as well as he ever has at age 36, the Athletics never could recover offensively.

“He elevates well with high velocity. He throws breaking balls on off counts,” Melvin said. “Keeps the ball on the corners. Piscotty had a good swing on him (Chad) Pinder had a good swing. We just didn’t have many good swings on him.”

Pinder’s double came in Semien’s spot at the top of the order with two out in the eighth inning. Chapman followed with a walk, bringing Matt Olson up with the potential lead run. Verlander struck him out swinging on his 114th and final pitch.

The Athletics late-inning relief faltered again in the top of the ninth, with Joakim Soria giving up a two-run home run to Robinson Chirinos (his seventh), and Will Harris retired the Athletics in the bottom of the ninth.

The Astros continue to be a riddle the Athletics can’t solve, which puts them in the same boat as most every other team considering Houston has won more games than any other team since the start of the 2017 season. Oakland is 1-6 so far this season against Houston after going 7-12 a year ago.

NOTES

— Starter Brett Anderson departed after 5 1/3 innings with a right oblique strain he has been dealing with all week. Anderson (6-4) hopes to be ready for his next start.

The Astros scored two runs in the fourth on Reddick’s two-run home run, his second homer on as many nights. It was a two-run home run because Anderson appeared to pick of Yuli Gurriel at first, only to have Gurriel beat Olson’s throw to second for the steal.

In the fifth, Jake Marisnick doubled to center — Laureano miss-timed his jump or he might have pulled it back in for another highlight-film catch — and came home on Alex Bregman’s bloop hit to right field.

Olson gave up chance for a moment on Bregman’s hit, the resumed the chase. By then, it was too late.

“Might have been some communications problems there, because that’s a ball that he usually gets pretty easily,” Melvin said. “Might of heard something that got him off a little bit.”

— Khris Davis, placed on the injured list May 22 with a hip contusion, went 0-for-4 after being activated. He hit fly outs to right on his first three at-bats — the last of which carried to the fence — and struck out looking in the ninth inning.

— Laureno did throw out Chirinos attempting to get to second on a deep single in the fourth inning, his sixth outfield assist of the season. He also extended his hitting streak to 14 games with his fifth inning single.

— Soria had gone 27 2/3 innings without giving up a home run, which was the most of any reliever in the American League coming in to the game.

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