Athletics-Astros Preview

When former Chicago Cubs teammates Jeff Samardzija and Scott Feldman faced off last week, the Oakland Athletics handed the Houston Astros their most lopsided loss of the season.

The best team in baseball will now need a victory in Tuesday night’s encore of that matchup to avoid a series loss in Houston.

In four starts with Oakland (65-40), Samardzija has a 6.00 run support average after it was 3.08 in 17 starts with Chicago, fifth-worst in baseball in that time. He’s received 20 runs of support in his time with the A’s, a total it took the Cubs 11 starts to reach for Samardzija (2-1, 2.70 ERA).

The right-hander got just two wins with Chicago this year but reached that mark with Oakland on Thursday, allowing a run and five hits in eight innings in a 13-1 victory over Houston. Pitching with a big lead allowed him to be aggressive with batters and he needed just 101 pitches, two starts after throwing 98 in eight innings. Those are two of his three lowest pitch counts in 12 career games of at least eight innings.

"That’s what run support will do for you," Samardzija told MLB’s official website. "Just calm down, and I like to throw a lot of fastballs. Get a few-runs lead, you can really pound the zone, get ahead in the count and work from there."

He’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in four starts versus the Astros (43-63) while limiting MLB batting leader Jose Altuve to 3 for 15 with five strikeouts. Former A’s first baseman Chris Carter, though, is 4 for 6 with a home run.

He’ll face Feldman for the second straight start.

Feldman (4-8, 4.60) has lost three consecutive outings with an 8.15 ERA, .370 opponent average and 11 walks. He’s been backed with just four runs in those games, though Feldman remains only self-critical.

"They’ve got a tough lineup, tough team," Feldman said after the A’s roughed him up for six runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. "They do things the right way and play the game right, and there’s a reason they’re so good. Obviously, I didn’t help myself by walking five guys. You can’t do that against those guys. They’re good enough when you’re not walking them that they still make you work."

Feldman is 5-7 with a 7.06 ERA in 14 career starts against Oakland with Jed Lowrie (6 for 12) and Derek Norris (4 for 5) enjoying the most success.

Houston opened the series with Monday’s 7-3 win, quite the improvement after allowing an average of 7.2 runs in 10 previous meetings this season. The Astros flipped the script with home runs from Carter, Jason Castro, Marc Krauss and Matt Dominguez while Altuve extended his hitting streak to 10 games and his run against the A’s to 15.

"We’ve been going through our offensive woes and, again, to see the middle of the lineup swing the bat the way they swung it tonight was exciting," said manager Bo Porter, whose club ended a five-game skid.

Oakland has now gone 15 games without stringing together more than two straight wins, its longest such drought of the season. The A’s have dropped eight of 12 on the road with a .224 average.

The Oakland outfield, already without Coco Crisp due to a sore neck, took another blow when Craig Gentry’s MRI on his right hand Monday revealed a fracture. He’s been placed on the 15-day DL, resulting in the club promoting its first rookie of the season, Billy Burns.