Jesse Chavez may be his own toughest critic, but Athletics manager Bob Melvin realizes he’s one of the main reasons Oakland’s pitching staff is off to such a solid start.
Chavez will take the mound Friday night for his second consecutive outing against a Houston Astros team looking to avoid an eighth straight loss to visiting Oakland.
The A’s (14-8) lead the AL with a 2.61 ERA, and their starters have gone at least six innings while allowing three runs or fewer in seven of the last eight games.
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Chavez (1-0, 1.38 ERA) has pitched at least that many frames while allowing one earned run in each of his four starts. He gave up four hits over six innings of a 4-1 win against the Astros on Sunday, also striking out six to bring his total to 28 in 26 innings.
The right-hander wasn’t pleased with the three walks he issued, but Melvin said it was testament to Chavez for battling through them.
"I think he’ll tell you he struggled with his command more so today than any other day," Melvin said. "That’s really the mark of a good pitcher, when you don’t have your best stuff. He’s been focused and ready for that opportunity and continues to run with it."
With this start, Chavez will exceed the amount he made over his previous six seasons, and he came out of the bullpen for all 35 of his appearances for the A’s last season. He has a 1.05 ERA in 16 career outings against Houston (7-16), which couldn’t solve Scott Kazmir and two relievers in Thursday’s 10-1 loss.
Oakland, which swept the Astros in a three-game set at home last weekend, ended its three-game skid as Josh Donaldson went 3 for 4 with a pair of two-run homers to extend his hitting streak to six. Jed Lowrie also had three hits and is 9 for 20 with a homer and four doubles in five games against Houston.
Astros reliever Paul Clemens was ejected in the seventh inning for hitting Lowrie with a pitch after working in tight against him in the third. Donaldson followed with a homer immediately after Lowrie was hit.
"It’s flat-out embarrassing," Lowrie said of the incident. "There’s no other way to say it. Every perspective, every angle you look at it it’s embarrassing. That kind of conduct shouldn’t be condoned."
Jose Altuve had three hits and former Athletic Chris Carter drew a bases-loaded walk for the Astros, who have lost eight of nine at home. Carter went 0 for 3 to drop his average to .149, and he’s 1 for 16 in his last five against his former team.
Houston, which is 5-24 all-time against Oakland while losing 11 of 13 matchups at home, will look to end its losing streak in the series as it sends Brad Peacock to the mound for this contest.
Peacock (0-2, 6.14) opposed Chavez on Sunday and allowed two runs while walking three in five innings to take the loss in his first start of the season. The right-hander made four previous appearances out of the bullpen before entering the rotation to replace the struggling Lucas Harrell, who cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A on Tuesday.
Peacock is 1-2 with a 3.92 ERA in four starts against the A’s.
Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, just 2 for 15 over his last five, left in the seventh inning Thursday with a strained left hamstring, and Melvin said he expects Cespedes to be out a couple of days.