The A’s clubbed two more home runs on Saturday, solo shots from Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, en route to a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros.
Both Dan Straily and rookie Brett Oberholtzer pitched well, with Straily tossing seven shutout innings of two-hit ball to qualify for the victory, his second consecutive strong outing.
Oakland probably should have scored more runs early, but an inability to take advantage of scoring situations against Oberholtzer prevented that. A one-out double from Chris Young in the first inning yielded no runs, for example.
Two innings later, the A’s ran themselves out of a rally. After Kurt Suzuki reached on an error, Lowrie singled. One out later, Josh Donaldson cracked a hard single to right, but some poor base running by Suzuki resulted in a rundown and the A’s catcher being tagged out at the plate for the final out of the inning, wasting a prime opportunity.
In the fourth, Cespedes connected on an 80 MPH changeup, driving the ball deep to left-center for a solo homer, putting the A’s on top 1-0. With two more hits on Saturday, Cespedes has now gone 11-28 thus far in September, presumably heating up for the season’s final few weeks. That’s something the A’s could really use to their advantage, obviously.
Houston squandered a leadoff Matt Dominguez double in the fifth, as Straily struck out Chris Carter and Brett Wallace before retiring Matt Pagnozzi to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Lowrie stepped up against reliever Josh Zeid and lined a solo home run of his own to dead center field, giving Oakland some insurance and increasing the lead to 2-0.
That extra run would come in handy, as the Astros picked up a run in the eighth against Dan Otero. After Wallace doubled and Marc Krauss singled, Wallace scored on a Brandon Barnes force out. Sean Doolittle came in and caught Barnes stealing twice – he reached second safely on Barton’s throw to second but was caught attempting to steal third to end the inning.
With Grant Balfour unavailable after throwing 35 pitches on Friday night, Doolittle stayed in for the ninth and picked up the save, stranding a one-out Jose Altuve single when Doolittle coaxed Jason Castro to fly to Cespedes in left for the final out.
Oakland (82-60) now holds a full game lead on the Rangers in the A.L. West, and could increase that to 1.5 games if Texas loses again tonight in Anaheim.
Tomorrow, Bartolo Colon (14-6, 2.90 ERA) will take the mound against Paul Clemens (4-4, 5.91 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. PDT with the A’s looking to take three of four from the Astros and continue playing well in September.