Wednesday, April 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

A’s sweep Astros for second time this season

Chris Young

Oakland Athletics center fielder Chris Young (25) catches a fly ball hit by Houston Astros' Marwin Gonzalez during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

OAKLAND — While his former team is struggling through the rebuilding process, Athletics infielder Jed Lowrie is relishing life on the West Coast.

It also helps to play for the club with the best record in the AL.

Lowrie had two hits Wednesday and Oakland used a six-run first inning to beat the Houston Astros 7-5 to complete another three-game sweep.

“We’re getting contributions up and down the lineup and that’s why we’ve been consistent so far,” said Lowrie, acquired from the Astros in a Feb. 4 trade.

“(The Astros) are in a rebuilding phase and we came in and took care of business. That’s what it takes. You have to beat the people you’re supposed to beat,” he said.

Bartolo Colon pitched six crisp innings, Josh Reddick doubled in two runs during Oakland’s big first inning while Seth Smith added three hits for the A’s, who improved to a league-best 12-4.

Oakland outscored Houston 22-10 in the series. The Astros have lost five in a row.

“The offense is off the charts at this point,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin, whose club leads the majors in several hitting categories. “We’re hitting on all cylinders.”

The A’s sent 11 batters to the plate and chased Astros starter Bud Norris in the first inning, then won behind Colon (2-0) and three relievers.

Jose Altuve had three hits and Carlos Pena homered for the second straight day for Houston. Pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel also homered for the Astros.

“We have a resilient group and we will continue to battle to the end,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “I don’t believe in moral victories; you either win or lose. But at the same time I liked that we kept fighting.”

Colon beat Houston for the second time this season, relying heavily on his curve and changeup most of the game.

The Astros scored their only run off the A’s starter when Chris Carter reached on an RBI grounder in the first, then was picked off by the 39-year-old Colon to end the inning.

Colon retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. He gave up four hits, struck out three and only allowed one runner past first base — Altuve, who singled and scored Houston’s first run.

“I think it’s the first time my changeup and my curve were working (that) great, so that’s why I used them a lot today,” Colon said. “We are playing very well as a team and we’re feeling very good about it.”

Colon, who has not walked a batter in 19 innings this season, lowered his ERA to 3.32.

It was also the second time in three games Houston’s starting pitcher failed to get out of the first. Eric Bedard retired just one batter and gave up six runs in Monday’s 11-2 loss to the A’s in the shortest outing of his career.

Norris (2-2) lasted only slightly longer, sticking around to get a second out when leadoff hitter John Jaso grounded out in his second at-bat of the first.

Reddick broke out of 4-for-39 slump with a double to highlight Oakland’s big inning. Chris Young, Eric Sogard, Shane Peterson and Jaso all drove in runs during the outburst.

Lowrie’s RBI groundout in the fourth drove in Peterson and made it 7-1.

Houston scored three runs in the seventh off reliever Chris Resop and had the tying run at the plate with two outs before Ryan Cook got Justin Maxwell to strike out looking.

Ankiel homered leading off the ninth against Oakland closer Grant Balfour to cut the lead to 7-5. After Matt Dominguez singled, Marwin Gonzalez reached on a fielder’s choice before Balfour got Altuve to ground into a game-ending double play for his third save.

Altuve remains one of the few bright spots for the Astros.

The second baseman had his third game this season with at least three hits and batted .385 (15 for 39) during the nine-game road trip.

NOTES: The A’s improved to 11-1 all-time against their new division rivals. … Both of Norris’ losses this season have come against Oakland. … Astros bullpen coach Jeff Murphy sustained injuries to his left leg and knee when a protective screen fell on him before the game. Murphy was throwing batting practice when a heavy gust of wind blew the screen over, pinning his leg underneath. According to a team spokesman, Murphy pulled his left hamstring and bruised the knee. … The A’s gave CF Coco Crisp (groin) the day off. … Oakland LHP Brett Anderson (1-2) pitches Friday’s series opener in Tampa Bay. … RHP Lucas Harrell, winless in three starts this season, pitches for Houston on Friday in Cleveland.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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