MLB

Keuchel struggles as Houston loses 7-5 to Oakland

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)

It looks as if the Oakland Athletics are quite familiar with Dallas Keuchel at this point in the season.

Keuchel was knocked out in the fourth inning and the Houston Astros went on to a 7-5 loss on Friday night.

''I felt the slider was keeping them in check early in the count because they like to hack,'' Keuchel said. ''I can't live on the outside corner of the plate all day long. I just wasn't getting the call.''

Keuchel (5-9) allowed 10 hits and five runs in just 3 2-3 innings in his third start of the year against the A's. The left-hander is 0-2 with a 5.48 ERA in five appearances overall against the AL West leaders.

Josh Donaldson had three hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning, as Oakland jumped ahead of Texas in the division.

Jed Lowrie added two hits and two RBIs for the A's, who have won six of eight. Yoenis Cespedes and Nate Freiman had two hits apiece.

The A's grabbed a half-game lead over the Rangers, who lost 6-5 at the Los Angeles Angels. But it was around this time last year that Oakland began its late push to overtake Texas for the division crown.

''It doesn't matter until the end of the season, we know that too well,'' Donaldson said. ''We're really not trying to focus on it right now. We're trying to take care of our business.''

Matt Dominguez drove in a pair of runs for Houston after sitting out the past three games with a sinus infection. The major league-worst Astros (47-94) had won two in a row.

Center fielder Brandon Barnes was ejected in the sixth inning after arguing with home plate umpire Alan Porter from the Astros' dugout. Barnes appeared to get hit by a pitch from A.J. Griffin (13-9) earlier in the inning but Porter ruled otherwise. Barnes then struck out.

It also was a sloppy night on defense for Houston.

Left fielder Chris Carter dropped Brandon Moss' routine fly ball in the sixth. First baseman Brett Wallace later dropped a foul ball in the eighth for another error.

The Astros, who had won three of the previous four games in the season series, still managed to put the tying run on base in the ninth after an error by second baseman Eric Sogard allowed Jonathan Villar to score.

Oakland closer Grant Balfour got Jason Castro to ground into a fielder's choice, and then fanned Dominguez to end the game.

''They battled all the way to the end,'' Houston manager Bo Porter said. ''Really good at-bats during the ninth. They made (Balfour) throw a bunch of pitches. They definitely had to earn it there.''

Griffin gave up four runs over six innings but matched his career high of nine strikeouts to win his third straight decision.

''I just tried to go out there and execute my game plan, keep them off balance, and the results were there,'' he said. ''It worked out.''

The A's trailed 3-1 and 4-3 before scoring twice in the fourth on Lowrie's RBI single and a groundout by Cespedes.

Donaldson doubled and scored in the third, and then singled and scored in the fourth. But his big blow came in the sixth, a towering drive to center against reliever Phil Humber that gave Oakland a 7-4 lead.

Eight of the A's nine starters had at least one hit, and five different players drove in runs.

Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook combined to retire six batters, and Balfour worked the ninth for his 37th save.

NOTES: Villar finished with three hits. ... Castro (right knee) was back in the Houston lineup as the DH after missing three games. Porter did not know when Castro would be able to catch again. ... Brett Oberholtzer (4-1), coming off Houston's first shutout of the season, takes on Dan Straily (8-7) in the third game of the series.

Tagged: Athletics, Astros, Grant Balfour, Jason Castro, Josh Donaldson

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