OAKLAND –– Tony Kemp said that the first half of this season was the worst of his major league career, but Monday night against his former team, he found a jolt of energy to break out of a slump and lead the A’s to a 7-5 win over the Astros.
Kemp was batting .161 over his last 21 games entering the series opener but went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and was part of a five-run inning that propelled the A’s (36-63) over the first-place Astros (64-33) in front of 4,105 fans at the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s have won four of six games since returning from the All-Star break.
The break provided an escape for Kemp to slow down before picking things up in the second half.
“I feel like it was just a good reset to be able to just hang out with the wife and kid and to be able to just really enjoy life for those couple days,” Kemp said. “It was a good reset for a lot of guys, especially myself, and we’re just gonna a second-half push and continue to put forward that work.”
The A’s trailed after the first inning courtesy of a solo homer by Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña, but Kemp tied the game in the third inning with a solo home run to left field. It was the second time in his career Kemp had homered in back-to-back games.
The A’s took the lead in the fourth inning with a single by Elvis Andrus that scored Ramón Laureano. With runners on first and second, Kemp barreled a double past centerfielder Jake Meyers, who was shaded toward left, that scored Andrus and Chad Pinder.
A’s manager Mark Kotsay said postgame that as Skye Bolt stepped to the plate in the fourth, he turned to quality control coach Mike Aldrete and predicted a home run.
Bolt delivered, as he sent a two-run home run right above the out-of-town scoreboard to make it 6-1 A’s.
“I just think for Skye it’s getting his confidence, getting his feet on the ground and understanding that this is his opportunity,” Kotsay said. “I think he’s really starting to feel like he belongs here.”
Bolt has been making the best of that opportunity as he is batting .364 with three home runs and six RBIs over his last nine games, a drastic improvement after hitting .133 over his first 11 games.
“The more swings that I’m able to get, the closer we are to get to where we want to be to figure out and get that feedback,” Bolt said. “It’s just getting your swing up. You take a swing and feel your balance you feel like you feel early and all that information comes back.”
Houston got a run back in the fifth inning on Chas McCormick’s double off A’s starter Adam Oller, but Oller finished out the frame and got his first major league win. He allowed three earned runs on four hits in his five innings.
Oller (1-3, 8.07 ERA) came in the trade that sent Chris Bassitt to the New York Mets and said that he felt like he was not meeting the expectations that came with being involved in such an important transaction. After being sent down to Triple-A, Oller said he religiously worked on throwing his fastball.
“There were a lot of moments in the first half of the season where I did take a look in the mirror and (said) ‘look at yourself in the mirror and decide what you want to be’,” Oller said. “I told myself that the second half was a new start and try to put myself in the best situation to not only help myself but to help the team that believes in me.”
When Oller started the sixth inning by allowing two baserunners, Domingo Acevedo entered for his American League-leading 45th relief appearance. He began by allowing Jeremy Peña to score on a pickoff throw to unattended first base and then hit Yuli Gurriel on the next pitch. Gurriel proceeded to steal second base, during which Alvarez stole home to cut Houston’s deficit to 6-4.
Andrus knocked in his second run of the day on a double that brought in Sean Murphy.
Lou Trivino gave up a solo homer to McCormick but recorded his ninth save of the season.
The A’s and Astros will be back at it on Tuesday night for the second game of the series. The A’s will send Frankie Montas, who could be making his last start in an A’s uniform at the Coliseum ahead of the Aug. 2 trade deadline, to battle Houston’s Luis Garcia.