Astros go for sweep over A’s, grief-stricken Piscotty

OAKLAND, Calif. — Two pitchers who figure to get an unusually large amount of support from the other team’s fans are set to duel Wednesday afternoon when the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics wrap up a three-game series.

The Astros will be looking for a sweep after they followed up a 16-2 shellacking of the A’s on Monday night with a 4-2 victory behind a home run by Alex Bregman and a combined six-hitter from four pitchers.

One of Oakland’s hits was a single by outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who elected to play less than 48 hours after his mother, Gretchen, had passed away in the Oakland suburb of Pleasanton on Sunday night.

The former Stanford star was dealt from the St. Louis Cardinals to the A’s in the offseason in part so he could be with his ailing mom, who was suffering from ALS.

“Sometimes actually getting out on the field and concentrating on what (he does) is maybe a little bit of a release from what he’s going through,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Piscotty’s return to the lineup after having missed Monday’s series opener. “He’s been through a lot, and I think he feels good about being around his teammates.”

Piscotty is expected to stay behind on bereavement leave when the A’s head to New York after the Houston series.

If, as expected, Piscotty gets a second consecutive start Wednesday, it’s scheduled to come against Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole (3-1, 1.42 ERA).

Cole and A’s righty Daniel Mengden (2-3, 4.30) are matched in a game pairing a native Californian against Oakland and a native Texan against Houston.

Cole, a UCLA product who is married to the sister of Pleasanton native Brandon Crawford, the San Francisco Giants shortstop, has a history of enjoying his visits to California.

Pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates before getting dealt to the Astros this season, Cole has gone 8-2 in starts in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Francisco in his six seasons in the majors.

He has never pitched in Oakland, although he has made two career starts against the A’s, going 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA.

Cole started the Astros’ 8-4 victory over the A’s in Houston on April 29, striking out 12 in 6 2/3 innings. But he did not get a decision in the victory that allowed the Astros to take two of three in the series.

Mengden, a Houston native, disappointed his hometown fans when he was on the losing end of an 11-0 drubbing in the second game of the series. He was pulled in the third inning, having allowed five runs.

The 25-year-old has a history of pitching poorly against the Astros, going 0-3 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts.

For that matter, Mendgen has not done particularly well in his new home. He’s 1-10 with a 5.32 ERA in his career in 16 home starts for the A’s.

Jose Altuve was the biggest thorn in Mengden’s side in the April game in Houston, contributing a single to a three-run first inning and an RBI double in the second in his only two at-bats before the A’s made a pitching change.