Surging Athletics face major leagues’ best Astros (Jun 19, 2017)
OAKLAND — As a reward for their four-game sweep of the New York Yankees, the Oakland Athletics will get to host the team with the best record in the major leagues.
The Houston Astros, off to their best-ever start, will visit the Oakland Coliseum for the opener of a four-game series on Monday.
The A’s don’t seem too worried after sweeping the touted Yankees for the first time since July 22, 2012. Oakland is seeing its young players come of age, sort of like in 2012 when it got red-hot in the second half.
“I don’t know necessarily if it’s momentum, but we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” reliever Sean Doolittle said of the current surge.
Doolittle closed out the last two wins since Santiago Casilla was unavailable Saturday and recovering from getting hit by a foul ball in the shoulder.
Oakland won each game by three runs or less and closed out the sweep with a 4-3 victory when Khris Davis slugged his 18th home run to break a 2-2 tie in a four-run third inning.
“We’ve got to get it going more again against the Astros,” said Jharel Cotton, who allowed three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. “We’ve got to keep it going and try to have a great homestand and then take it on the road.”
Rookie Daniel Gossett will look to rebound from a rocky debut against the Miami Marlins. In Wednesday’s 11-6 loss, he was unable to hold a 4-0 lead and allowed seven runs (six earned) and six hits in 3 1/3 innings.
“We know the Astros are tough and it will be a challenge against them and Gossett will bounce back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said Sunday.
He will be opposed by Brad Peacock, who is the first of four right-handed pitchers Houston will start. Peacock is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 17 appearances (five starts) this season.
In Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers, Peacock allowed one run and two hits in 4 2/3 innings. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and struck out 10 while pitching on three days’ rest.
Peacock is 1-4 with a 4.81 ERA in 12 appearances (nine starts) against Oakland.
Houston (46-24) holds an 11-game lead in the AL West over Texas and leads Oakland by 14 1/2 games. The Astros are 4-7 in their last 11 games after going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position during a 6-5 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
Carlos Correa, Jake Marisnick and George Springer homered and, despite the lack of clutch hitting, manager A.J. Hinch was not disappointed in the at-bats.
“You look up and down the order, we had (a) tremendous amount of good at-bats,” Hinch said. “Maybe not at the right time when we needed it the most, but even some of those we didn’t come through with runners in scoring positon were pretty good at-bats. In small-margin games, this is going to be key.”
Even with all the winning, the pitching staff has been rocked by injuries, with young arms filling the void. Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh are all on the disabled list.
The good news for Houston is all of the injured starters are making strides, especially Keuchel. Keuchel is slated to start a throwing program Monday in Oakland.
“I like that they’re all progressing and the key is to not have setbacks or have to shut guys down,” Hinch said. “I won’t feel a ton better until I see they’re legitimate options for us.”
This season, the Astros added veteran leaders in 40-year-old slugger Carlos Beltran, popular former Athletic Josh Reddick and catcher Brian McCann to a talented, young squad. The results have been magnificent.
Beltran slugged his 430th career home run in a 7-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday.