Houston’s frustrations might be starting to boil over.
One night after a scuffle in the dugout, the Astros will try to salvage a series win Thursday as they wrap up a three-game set with the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park.
After giving up four runs and recording just two outs in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 7-3 loss, reliever Dan Wheeler shoved starter Chris Sampson, who had come over to console Wheeler when he came back to the dugout. Sampson pitched seven strong innings, and was in line for the win before the A’s scored five eighth-inning runs.
The incident was similar to the one between Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett of the Chicago Cubs two weeks earlier. However, that scuffle ended with punches thrown, while Wednesday’s was over almost instantly.
“There’s nothing going on,” said Wheeler, who was demoted from the closer role after blowing a save in Colorado last Thursday. “I love Chris. It was just frustration on my part. I’m a professional, I should be better than that. I take full responsibility.”
Sampson also said that the incident wasn’t significant.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “There’s no issues there. I think of Dan like a big brother. It was bad timing on my part. I was trying to pat him on the back and tell him, ‘We’ll get them next time.’ He was in the heat of the moment.”
Still, the Astros (27-38) must be feeling frustrated - they are just 7-19 since May 17 and have dropped three of their last four games.
The Athletics (35-29), on the other hand, have won nine of their last 11. Eric Chavez homered and drove in three runs Wednesday, and Jason Kendall added his first home run since May 31 last season, ending the second-longest drought among active players.
“It seems like when they bring in the reliever, we turn it on a bit,” said starter Joe Blanton, who pitched seven innings for the win. “It’s not the first time they’ve scored for me late.”
The A’s will send Chad Gaudin (6-1, 2.43 ERA) to the mound in the finale. He has been a nice surprise for Oakland this season, winning his last five decisions since his lone defeat on April 27 against Tampa Bay.
Gaudin had won four straight starts before Friday, when he allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings of Oakland’s 10-inning, 5-3 win in San Francisco.
“Another great night by Chad,” manager Bob Geren told the Athletics’ official Web site. “It’s just more of the same thing he’s been giving us for a while now.”
Gaudin has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his last five starts and all but two of his 13 outings this season. He has never faced the Astros.
Houston will counter with Jason Jennings (0-1, 2.70), who is still looking for his first win since joining the Astros in an offseason trade with Colorado. He gave up just one run in seven innings on Saturday, but didn’t get a decision in Houston’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
The start was his third after a stint on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow.
“I’m still trying to build up my pitch count and my arm strength,” he said.
Jennings made his only start against the A’s on June 20 last season, throwing seven innings in a 6-0 win for the Rockies.