BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
The Houston Astros continued their mastery over the A’s Thursday afternoon at the Coliseum, taking the rubber match of their three-game series, and the division lead in the process, with a 8-4 win.
After rebounding from a four-game sweep at the hands of the Astros to open the season, Oakland had maintained at least a share of the division lead for the past 30 days since April 19th, but Houston’s current run of 11 wins in their past 14 games returned them to a position they’ve become quite accustomed to since winning the World Series in 2017.
The Astros pieced together four hits in the third inning against A’s starter Cole Irvin (3-5,3.59) to take a 3-1 lead, and a two-run homer by their .157 hitting catcher Martin Maldonado the following inning sealed Irvin’s fate. Alex Bregman contributed three hits and a pair of RBI’s for Houston, while Maldonado finished with two hits and three RBI’s on the day.
Houston starter Luis Garcia (2-3,3.338) went five solid innings for the win, allowing just two runs on three hits while striking out seven.
“There’s a lot of season left. Typically, these things flip back and forth,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The Astros have played well here recently and are on a hot streak right now. We were going to have to put up a bunch of runs on the board, and we just didn’t do it.”
In spite of a trio of solo home runs by Mark Canha (leading off the game), Tony Kemp and Seth Brown, the A’s were once again outhit by the Astros 14-8. Over the three game series Houston outhit Oakland by the commanding total of 42-20, with A’s batters going a meek 1-18 with runners in scoring position.
Following the game, Oakland prepared to fly south to Anaheim for their first look of the season at the Angels. James Kaprielian (1-0,1.80) is scheduled to take the mound for the A’s Friday night against Dylan Bundy (0-5,6.02) in the opener.
Houston is the only AL West team the A’s have played so far this season, but this weekend’s series in Anaheim begins a stretch of 13 games in as many days with both home and away series against the Angels and Seattle Mariners. Oakland still isn’t scheduled to see the Texas Rangers for the first time until June 21.
The Astros have outscored Oakland 59-31 over the first 10 games of the season series.
The A’s are now 8-14 in games decided by four runs or more, the fifth worst record in the majors.
Elvis Andrus extended his hitting streak to ten games, tying the A’s season high by both Matt Chapman and Matt Olson.
Mark Canha has now reached base in all ten games against the Astros, going 12-36 for a .333 average.
Ramón Laureano leads all Major League center fielders in home runs (10) and RBI (20).