The Oakland Athletics entered the 2015 season with plenty of question marks, many of which pointed directly at the retooled pitching staff.
Drew Pomeranz did well to address those concerns with a dominant first start.
He’ll look for another strong outing Wednesday night when Oakland tries for a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros, who have managed only one run in their last two games.
Pomeranz impressed with a 2.58 ERA in 10 starts last season, and proved that success was no fluke Friday against Seattle. The left-hander allowed two hits over seven innings without a walk and six strikeouts in a 12-0 victory.
"That’s a pretty tough lineup to navigate your way through, and he had everything working," manager Bob Melvin told MLB’s official website. "He got on a roll, and you could see the confidence grow, and just ended up having a terrific night."
Oakland’s offense has been equally impressive, scoring 6.1 runs per game this season. Six of the Athletics’ nine starters for Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Houston (3-5) are hitting better than .300 on the year.
Ben Zobrist and Sam Fuld lead the team with eight runs apiece, and Billy Butler has hit safely in all nine games.
Like Pomeranz, Houston’s Collin McHugh also carried momentum from a strong 2014 campaign into the new season. The right-hander surrendered one run in six innings in Friday’s 5-1 win over Texas to improve to 8-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his last 11 starts. He’s struck out 59 and walked nine over 72 innings during that span.
McHugh’s streak is the longest by an Astros pitcher since Roy Oswalt won nine straight decisions from August 23, 2006-April 17, 2007.
One of the best outings of McHugh’s career came against the Athletics (5-4) on April 27, when he limited Oakland to one run and two hits in 8 2-3 innings of a 5-1 victory.
Considering Houston’s recent offensive output, McHugh may need a similar performance Wednesday. The Astros have scored only one run through the first two games of this series, and have plated two or fewer in six of their eight games.
Jake Marisnick is hitting .318 with five RBIs, but no other Astro has driven in more than two runs.
Houston is 5 for 48 (.104) with runners in scoring position this season.
"There’s a lot of traffic on the bases, we just weren’t able to get that hit that catapulted us," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "Some good at-bats, some bad at-bats, and then ultimately no runs. That’s not a good combo. … Multiple good at-bats in a row is what’s going to be necessary to score, especially against a good team."
Zobrist was held hitless Tuesday, but has otherwise enjoyed his matchups with the Astros. He has a career .400 on-base percentage against Houston – his highest against any team he’s played at least eight times – and is 2 for 5 with a double and a triple against McHugh.
Houston’s Jose Altuve is batting .364 during a 25-game hitting streak against the A’s.