A visit to Houston has provided the Oakland Athletics with the ideal opportunity to bounce back from their roughest stretch of the young season.
The A’s look to continue their dominance of their AL West foes with a ninth consecutive victory over the Astros on Saturday night.
Oakland (15-8) totaled seven runs while being swept at home by Texas this week, but has outscored Houston 22-6 to win the first two of the four-game set at Minute Maid Park. After blowing an early 4-0 lead Friday, Josh Donaldson’s two-run homer highlighted a seven-run ninth inning that gave the visitors a 12-5 victory.
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"It was awesome to finish the way we did," Oakland’s Craig Gentry said.
The A’s are 25-5 all-time against the Astros (7-17) and batting .330 with 14 home runs while outscoring them 57-21 during their eight-game series winning streak.
Donaldson, who has hit three of his seven home runs in the first two of this set, is batting .583 (14 for 24) with four homers and nine RBIs in his last seven at Houston.
He’s 4 for 10 with a double against scheduled Astros starter Dallas Keuchel (2-1, 3.38 ERA), who went 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA in three starts against the A’s last season.
Keuchel, who didn’t face Oakland last week, is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts since he allowed four runs in five innings of a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in his season debut April 5. The left-hander, who gave up two runs and struck out eight in six innings of a 7-2 victory at Seattle on Monday, has been able to effectively command more than one pitch of late.
"I think I have some above-average off-speed stuff, and when I can throw my fastball for strikes with movement, it kind of sets up that off-speed," Keuchel told the Astros’ official website. "Any time I can get ahead and make those guys think about the fastball, it makes that off-speed so much better."
Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes is 2 for 15 in his last five contests but 5 for 6 with a double versus Keuchel.
Scheduled A’s starter Dan Straily (1-1, 5.40) allowed two runs, seven hits, struck out 18 and walked one over 13 2-3 innings while going 2-0 against the Astros in 2013.
Straily went 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in his first two starts this season, but has yielded nine runs over 8 2-3 innings over his last two. He allowed three runs and six hits in five innings of a 4-3 loss to Texas on Monday.
Houston All-Star Jose Altuve is 6 for 10 in this series and batting .400 (16 for 40) during his last nine games versus Oakland. He went 2 for 6 versus Straily last season.
Astros manager Bo Porter was ejected Friday after yelling at home plate umpire Jordan Baker when Jason Castro was hit on the backside with a pitch with one out in the ninth. Castro’s plunking came after Oakland’s Jed Lowrie accused Houston of intentionally hitting him with a pitch Thursday.
"They’ve hit us a few times this series and we hit one of their guys," Oakland’s Brandon Moss said. "I think Bo said it (Thursday), the game of baseball takes care of itself."