It’s still very early, but the Oakland Athletics own the best
record in the AL.
Nearly all of their success has come at the expense of their
division rivals – most notably the newest member.
The A’s look to sweep the Houston Astros for the second time
this month Wednesday when they conclude this three-game set in
Oakland (11-4) has the second-best record in baseball behind
12-1 Atlanta, an outstanding start for a team many felt couldn’t
repeat as the AL West champ.
The A’s have won 10 straight division games against Seattle,
Houston (4-10) and Los Angeles after opening the season with
back-to-back losses to the Mariners.
Oakland has pounded those West foes, hitting .319 while
averaging 8.0 runs over the past 10 games. It’s outscored the
Astros 38-14 in five meetings with the division’s new addition.
Tuesday’s victory was a rare close call for the A’s against
Houston. They trailed 2-0 after three innings and needed Josh
Donaldson’s tiebreaking triple in the eighth inning to escape with
a 4-3 win.
“You’re not going to score 10 runs every night, so it’s nice to
win a one-run ballgame,” said closer Grant Balfour, who has
converted 20 straight save opportunities dating to last season.
Donaldson’s heroics Tuesday also helped Oakland improve to 10-1
all-time against Houston.
The third baseman may make an impact in the series finale since
he’s batting .364 with a .432 on-base percentage and six runs over
the past eight games. He’s also driven in five in that stretch,
three of which have been game-winners.
It would seem the A’s may have a tough test with Houston turning
to Bud Norris (2-1, 1.96), who is emerging as their top starter
after going 7-13 with a 4.65 ERA last year.
The right-hander, however, struggled in a 6-3 loss to Oakland on
April 6. He surrendered five runs – two earned – and six hits,
including homers to Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp, while throwing 122
pitches in 5 2-3 innings.
Norris, though, rebounded in tremendous fashion Friday, yielding
three hits in seven innings of a 5-0 road win over the Los Angeles
“This guy’s a No. 1 starter and he’s pitched a lot of big
games,” manager Bo Porter said. “I think his best years are
definitely ahead of him. He’s growing up right in front of our
eyes, and it’s a pleasure to see.”
Porter isn’t finding any pleasure in watching his lineup muster
a .192 average during a four-game losing streak
Jason Castro, though, managed to find some success against
Bartolo Colon (1-0, 4.15), who beat Norris on April 6. The catcher
hit a three-run homer off the right-hander and also singled.
Colon lasted six innings in his 2013 debut, which was his first
start since being reinstated from a 50-game suspension for a
positive testosterone test last August.
A three-run homer was again the only damage Colon allowed over
seven innings Friday. This one came off the bat of Prince Fielder
in a 4-3 win in 12 innings over Detroit.