Athletics’ Manaea faces Astros’ McCullers in key matchup

OAKLAND, Calif. — Lance McCullers Jr. and Sean Manaea are set for a rematch of one of the most unusual games of the 2017 season when the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics duel for the second time in a three-game series Tuesday night.

The Astros got the series off to a powerful start Monday when George Springer went 6-for-6 and Marwin Gonzalez drove in five runs in a 16-2 triumph.

When last seen in Oakland, Manaea was no-hitting the Boston Red Sox in a 3-0 victory on April 21.

The 26-year-old left-hander followed that up with another brilliant outing, limiting the Astros to one unearned run and just four hits over seven innings in an 8-1 win in Houston.

McCullers was even better the next night, shutting out the A’s over seven innings in an 11-0 win. He allowed only two hits.

Runs were a lot easier to come by when Manaea and McCullers went head-to-head in Oakland last April 15.

Manaea pitched five no-hit innings that night, only to be pulled from the game by manager Bob Melvin after issuing three straight walks to open the sixth, with Oakland winning 5-0.

Manaea had thrown 98 pitches at that point. He walked five and struck out six in his five-plus innings.

A little more than a year later, Manaea got his no-hitter, this time allowed to complete a 108-pitch effort against the Red Sox.

The Astros scored twice in Manaea’s final inning without getting a hit in the contest last April, then broke up the no-hitter when Nori Aoki led off the seventh with a single off the third A’s pitcher, Liam Hendricks.

Houston went on to score two more runs in the seventh, four in the eighth and two in the night for a wild 10-6 win.

George Springer, who went 6-for-6 in Monday’s shellacking of the A’s, had a two-run homer in the Houston comeback.

McCullers was gone well before the Astros collected their first hit. He allowed Oakland’s first five runs, one of which came on a homer by Khris Davis.

McCullers (4-1, 373) has been stingy with the runs this season. He’d won three straight, allowing a total of just two runs, before giving up three in a 6-5 loss Thursday to the Yankees in his most recent start. He did not get a decision in that game.

He has pitched in Oakland just once his career, the aforementioned 10-6 win last April. He’s gone 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA overall against Oakland in his career.

Manaea (4-3, 1.63) has made nine career starts against the Astros, going 2-3 with a 2.12 ERA.

He’s going to have to figure out a way to cool Astros bats that have beaten up on A’s pitching for 35 runs and 40 hits in their last three meetings.

Springer has a home run in each of the three games. Gonzalez and Derek Fisher have two apiece, while Jose Altuve has one.

A’s pitching had been on a nice run before Monday’s debacle, allowing just 17 runs in six games since leaving Houston on April 29. Oakland won four of those games.