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Athletics succumb to Astros’ Verlander as Maldonado hits grand slam.

Pit the most anemic offensive team in baseball against a future Hall of Famer and the end result is what happened to the Athletics Sunday in a 5-0 road loss to the Houston Astros.

The A’s spotted Justin Verlander a 4-0 lead in the second inning on a grand slam by Martin Maldonado against starting pitcher Jared Koenig and the 39-year-old right-hander took care of the rest with relief help from Phil Maton, Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu for one inning each.

Verlander gave up six hits in six innings, throwing 106 pitches — 73 of them strikes — while improving to 12-3 and lowering his earned run average to 1.89. He struck out 10, leapfrogging Curt Schilling (3,116) and Bob Gibson (3,117) and moving into 14th on the all-time major league list with 3,121 and improved his record to 238-132.

“Obviously the second inning kind of blew up. One bad inning,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “After that (Koenig) kind of settled down, but the damage was done. Maldonado got a fastball middle and he ended up hitting a grand slam. . . at the end of the day it’s tough when you’ve got a Hall of Famer that’s climbing the strikeout board and you know he’s going to put up zeroes.”

Houston, the division leaders, improved to 59-31, with the Athletics at the other end of the AL West standings at 31-61.

In the sixth, Verlander finished with a flourish, striking out the side. In all, the A’s swung and missed 19 times. Every A’s hitter struck out at least eleven except leadoff batter Vimael Machin. The Athletics finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position with seven runners left on base. In all, the A’s struck out 16 times and drew one walk (with two out in the ninth) against Verlander and the three relievers.

“That’s classic Justin,” Kotsay said. “Life on the fastball. He threw a lot of breaking balls today. The curveball he had working to keep guys off his fastballs from him. You watch those guys who are the best in the game and they elevate themselves when they have runners in scoring position.”

Koenig, 1-3, had a 10-pitch first inning with a pair of strikeouts then got the first two hitters of the second before disaster struck.

Suddenly unable to keep pitches from being up in the zone, Koenig gave up sharp singles to left center to both Yuli Gurriel and Jake Meyers before walking Chas McCormick.

Maldonado, the No. 9 hitter, was next, and he hit a 1-0 pitch well over the left centerfield fence. The drive left the park at 106.1 miles per hour and carried 416 feet. It was Maldonado’s ninth home run of the season.

The Astros added a run in the fourth against Koenig with the help of a leadoff walk to Aledmys Diaz, who eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by McCormick.


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