HOUSTON — Given the disparity between the Astros’ offensive output on the road compared to their relative struggles at home, it felt foreboding that Houston entered the ninth inning Tuesday night with only one run on the scoreboard.
The Astros’ three-run rally fell short against the Athletics (35-42) in the series opener, with their 6-4 loss continuing their trend of subpar play at Minute Maid Park relative to their extraordinary performances on the road. Houston fell to 23-17 at home this season compared to 29-9 away from Minute Maid Park.
“I never give up on this team,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
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“We had the right matchups; we had the right guys in there. We just fell a little short.”
With five games remaining on their homestand the Astros (52-26) remain a mystifying bunch at home. What has been a recent trend for their offense continued Tuesday with Houston finishing 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position while stranding 10.
Rookie right-hander David Paulino (2-0, 5.04 ERA) starts for the Astros on Wednesday. He defeated the Athletics on Thursday by allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in a 12-9 victory.
It marked the second win of Paulino’s career. The Astros are 3-2 in his five starts this season.
Right-hander Jesse Hahn (3-5, 4.66 ERA) will start for the Athletics. Hahn is 2-1 with a 7.00 ERA in four starts since being reinstated from the 10-day disabled list (strained right triceps) on June 6.
Hahn is 0-3 with a 3.14 ERA in seven road games (six starts). Hahn is 1-4 with a 9.28 ERA over five career starts against the Astros, including a 12-9 setback Thursday when he allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on six hits and three walks over two innings. He lost twice in two starts against Houston in 2016.
While quality starting pitching remains pivotal, Oakland reliever Ryan Madson again delivered in a tight spot and continues to be a positive force in the bullpen.
Madson entered the series having allowed one earned run over his last seven games and seven innings, recording seven strikeouts against one walk during that stretch. He recorded the most crucial out in the series opener, fanning Astros right fielder George Springer to close the sixth inning with a pair of runners on.
Madson faced four batters and recorded three strikeouts. His role versatility has been a plus for the Athletics.
“We always have a great feeling about him,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of Madson. “He’s been really consistent for us in a role that could end up being anywhere from two outs in the sixth to the eighth and the ninth potentially, depending on the dynamic.
“For a guy who’s a little bit older than some of the other guys, he’s kept himself in great shape. He has a great understanding of when he can pitch and when he can’t. He’s been fantastic for us in any number of roles we can use him.”