Athletics-Astros Preview

Josh Donaldson returned from an injury with an impressive offensive display to help the Oakland Athletics move back into first place.

Donaldson looks to continue to feast on Houston pitching as the visiting A's try to make it two in a row over the Astros on Tuesday night.

Oakland (77-53) is tied with the Los Angeles Angels for first place in the AL West. The A's regained that position after beating Houston 8-2 in Monday's opener, a day following a 9-4 home defeat to the Angels, failing to sweep that three-game series.

After sitting Sunday with a knee injury, Donaldson was back in the lineup Monday, and had three hits - two doubles - and three RBIs. The All-Star third baseman isn't fully healthy.

"It's not something I think about too much," Donaldson said. "It's just one of those things, 126 games now. You learn how to play with stuff."

Another meeting with the Astros (55-77) could at least have Donaldson feeling good at the plate. He has a .403 average with 18 RBIs in 17 career games at Minute Maid Park, and is hitting .392 with five homers and nine doubles while plating 18 runs in 14 overall meetings this year.

Josh Reddick has put together a .378 average against Houston this season, and he connected for a two-run homer Monday.

Another strong offensive showing may be needed with Jason Hammel (1-5, 6.75 ERA) back in the rotation after being skipped during last weekend's series with the Angels.

The right-hander hasn't started since allowing five runs and three homers in three innings of a 7-2 loss at Atlanta on Aug. 15.

He has a 9.00 ERA while losing all four road starts since moving to the A's in a trade from the Chicago Cubs on July 4. He surrendered a career high-tying eight runs and two homers in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-1 loss at Houston on July 30.

Hammel thinks the long layoff will help him show improvement.

"Sometimes when you skip a start, mentally, it's even better than physically, just to take a break and take that kind of pressure off of yourself," Hammel told MLB's official website.

Hammel is also facing an Astros' team batting .198 with five runs during a three-game skid.

Houston will counter with Dallas Keuchel (10-9, 3.12), who leads the team with a career high in wins. However, he's 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts since tossing a four-hitter opposite Hammel on July 30.

The left-hander threw a seven-hitter against the New York Yankees on Thursday, but gave up all their runs in the second inning while the Astros were four-hit by Brandon McCarthy in a 3-0 road defeat.

"He looked like he was in complete command the whole time," manager Bo Porter said. "Even the inning where he gave up the three runs, it's not like those were bad pitches. So he did a tremendous job."

Keuchel has also been impressive against Reddick and Donaldson. Reddick is 1 for 11 all-time against Keuchel, while Donaldson has homered on his only hit in six at-bats this year.

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