A’s aim to break through vs. Astros

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Houston Astros will seek to continue their dominance over the Oakland Athletics when the contending clubs in the American League West open a three-game series on Tuesday night.

Lance McCullers, already 2-0 against the A’s this season, and Daniel Mengden, a Houston native who has struggled in his career against the Astros, are scheduled to get the call in the series curtain-raiser.

The Astros have won five of six from the A’s this season, including two of three when the teams met in Oakland in May.

McCullers and Mengden went head-to-head in Houston in April, with the Astros rolling to an 11-0 victory.

McCullers (7-3, 3.94) also pitched well, albeit without as much offensive support, when he beat the A’s 4-2 in Oakland in May.

The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA in six career starts against the A’s, although he hasn’t been nearly as good in Oakland (1-0, 6.75) as he’s been against the A’s at home.

The Astros have opened a 10-game trip with four straight wins over Texas, with Saturday’s 4-3 triumph moving them into a first-place tie with Seattle and Sunday’s 8-7 victory helping them temporarily remain there.

A trip to Oakland provides a homecoming of sorts for Astros catcher Max Stassi, a Northern California native who took advantage of an injury to starter Brian McCann last month to carve out more of a regular role with the club.

He went 4-for-9 with two doubles on Houston’s last trip to Oakland, and Saturday registered one of his personal highlights with a 466-foot home run, the longest of his career, against Texas.

“You catch a winner and get a hit, as a catcher, you feel pretty good about your night,” noted Astros manager A.J. Hinch, himself a former catcher. “You catch a winner and hit a homer, you feel that much better.”

The A’s, meanwhile, opened a 10-game homestand by taking three of four from Kansas City. They stand fourth in the West but get a chance to improve their standing in the next six games, when they will be playing the Astros and Los Angeles Angels, two teams currently ahead of them.

Mengden (6-5, 3.45) is scheduled twice during those six games. He’s won four of his last five starts since the last time he saw the Astros.

After the disastrous head-to-head with McCullers, in which he had to be pulled in the third inning, he pitched well in a 4-1 home loss to the Astros in May.

Mengden has never beaten the Astros in his career, going 0-4 with a 6.23 ERA in six starts.

The A’s used Monday’s day off to get closer Blake Treinen a break. He went the final 1 2/3 innings for the save in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Kansas City, the major-league-leading sixth time he’s recorded saves of more than one inning.

Afterward, Treinen was happy to share the credit with shortstop Marcus Semien, whose diving stop helped retain a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth, and Matt Chapman, whose leadoff home run in the bottom of the inning provided the eventual game-winning run.

“Chapman made a great swing,” Treinen observed, “but that swing doesn’t get us the win if Marcus doesn’t make that play.”