BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
In one of the best pitching duels of the season, the A’s closed out their most important series of 2020 with a 3-1 win over the Houston Astros, firmly putting themselves in the drivers seat in the race for the AL West championship.
The win, their fourth in the five game series, gives Oakland a 6 1/2 game lead over the Astros. It’s the largest division lead for the A’s since the 2013 season and reduces their magic number to just 11 with 18 games remaining on the schedule.
Sean Manaea (4-2, 4.46) carried a perfect game into the sixth inning of the fast-paced game, played under ominous skies with an AQI approaching 200 caused by the numerous wildfires that continue to ravage the West Coast.
It was Manaea’s second straight solid start on the home stand, following Saturday’s outing against the Padres where he only allowed one run in five innings. Thursday he was even better, quickly dispatching the Astros first 15 batters on the way to a seven inning effort that he completed while only allowing one run on two hits. He only needed 61 pitches and didn’t walk a batter.
He was nearly matched by Houston’s Jose Urquidy (0-1, 3.72), making just his second appearance of the season. Urquidy kept pace with Manaea for the first four innings, not allowing a hit. But the A’s finally got to him in the sixth when Matt Olson followed a Ramon Laureano walk with a two run homer, his 12th, giving Oakland all the offense they would need.
After a scoreless eighth from Jake Diekman, Liam Hendriks came on in the ninth to pitch a perfect inning for his 12th save. It also improved Oakland’s record in games that Hendriks has appeared this season to a perfect 19-0.
After the game the A’s left for Arlington and a four-game series against Texas that includes another doubleheader on Saturday. Mike Fiers (4-2, 4.93) is set to face the Rangers Luis Garcia (0-1, 3.68) in tomorrow nights opener at 5:05pm.