Astros-Athletics Preview

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.