The Oakland Athletics expect manager Mark Kotsay back in the dugout and hope he'll bring some fresh bats with him when baseball's losingest team completes a three-game home series against the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Kotsay left the team Saturday to attend his daughter's high school graduation,and he missed more of the same as the A's dropped their 10th straight game, 6-3 to the Astros. Oakland hasn't scored more than three runs in any game in the losing streak.
Interim manager Darren Bush said his experience as the boss felt pretty much like any other day in the 44-loss season.
"It was exciting; don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it," Bush noted. "Kots and I talk a lot all the time. Obviously now I don't have Kots there bouncing ideas off him and going back and forth. But every day, you're running everything through your head. You're running all the scenarios through your head. (Saturday) was just another day doing it."
The A's were outhit 8-6 in Saturday's loss but walked four times. They wound up getting 11 opportunities with runners in scoring position; Shea Langeliers, with a two-run single in the eighth, came through with the biggest hit.
Meanwhile, the Astros got only six chances with runners in scoring position, but one chance resulted in a three-RBI double by Alex Bregman as part of a four-run eighth that spelled the difference in the game.
Jeremy Pena scored on Bregman's big hit and also contributed a two-run homer in the first inning in his return to the lineup after Dusty Baker had opted to go with Mauricio Dubon as Jose Altuve's double-play partner in the series opener.
"He's more in rhythm than some of the guys," Baker said of Pena, insisting the World Series hero's day off Friday was more of a rest than a benching. "Usually around the 200 at-bat mark, guys find their timing and get in their rhythm. You hope everybody finds that at this point because we're about one-third of the way through (the season)."
One member of the Astros definitely in a nice rhythm is Sunday's scheduled starter, right-hander Cristian Javier (5-1, 3.07 ERA), who is unbeaten in four starts in May, going 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA while striking out 29 in 25 innings. He allowed a combined two runs and six hits over 12 innings in his past two starts, which produced wins over the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
The 26-year-old missed the A's visit last week -- a three-game series the Astros swept at home -- and has gone just 2-3 with a 4.81 ERA against them in his career over 11 appearances, including eight starts.
After getting an impressive bulk-innings relief effort from Hogan Harris in his second big-league game Saturday, the A's hope for more of the same from fellow rookie Luis Medina (0-3, 6.45) in a starter's role in the series finale.
In the wake of a less-than-stellar major-league debut in April in which he allowed seven earned runs in five innings against the Los Angeles Angels, Medina has been consistent in three May starts. He has given up three runs in each while going six innings twice and 5 1/3 innings in his most recent outing, a 3-2 loss at Seattle on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old has never faced the Astros.
--Field Level Media