Astros host A’s in the midst of two four-game series

HOUSTON — The Houston Astros opened their second consecutive four-game series on Monday night, marking the only time this season they will face four-game series in succession.

The series against the Oakland Athletics marks the ninth of 12 four-game sets for Houston (61-32) this season. Adding one game to extend a three-game set doesn’t necessarily influence strategy, but it does present managers additional thoughts to consider regarding in-game matchups.

“I think you pay attention the second time you ask a reliever to go through the same part of the order,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “As an example, when Joe Smith comes in to face one of these right-handed hitters I have to pay attention because he can get three or four at-bats against the same guy in four games.

“I know it’s only one more game, but the chances of you facing the same pocket of a lineup as a reliever is much higher in a four-game series.”

The Astros had their six-game home winning streak snapped with a 2-0 loss to the A’s. The shutout loss was their sixth of the season, each at Minute Maid Park.

Right-hander Justin Verlander (9-4, 2.15 ERA) will make his penultimate start on Tuesday before the All-Star Game break. He allowed three runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of a 7-3 win over Oakland on June 14.

Verlander is 11-6 with a 2.68 ERA in 18 career starts against the Athletics. He was named to his seventh All-Star team on Sunday.

Left-hander Sean Manaea (8-6, 3.33 ERA) will start for Oakland. He is 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in six starts since the beginning of June after opening the season 4-2 with a 1.03 ERA in his first six starts.

Manaea is 2-4 with a 2.54 ERA in 10 career starts against the Astros, against whom he made his big-league debut on April 29, 2016. He is 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts against Houston this season.

Left fielder Mark Canha made his 13th start batting second in the lineup on Monday, and while he finished 0-for-4 with a strikeout, Canha hit the ball hard twice against Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole.

With Matt Joyce, who has batted second 16 times, on the 10-day disabled list with a lumbar strain, Canha has become a two-hole fixture and has enabled Oakland (51-40) to reconfigure its lineup and bump shortstop Marcus Semien into the eighth spot, where he can inject speed.

“A couple years ago, that’s where he hit for a good portion of the year,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of Canha. “Now he’s getting to see a lot of right-handed pitching and he’s having success against it. With Joyce out, he’s gotten the starts and he’s done a great job with it.

“It allows us to get a little speed at the bottom with Marcus too and lengthens our lineup some. As of right now, he’s going to get a good portion of these games.”