The last time the Astros journeyed to Oakland was in 2002, when the A's swept them in Interleague Play. Eleven years later, the Astros are finally going back, but the circumstances have changed quite a bit since their last visit.
Houston is about to begin its first West Coast road trip as a member of the American League West, and it will take the Astros to Oakland for just the second time in club history -- and the first time as one of Oakland's division rivals. The Astros and A's will kick off a three-game series Monday night at O.co Coliseum, where Houston lefty Erik Bedard will take on Oakland southpaw Tommy Milone.
Both clubs' players and on-field staff will wear No. 42 uniforms Monday as Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
While the A's are looking to get back on track after two lopsided defeats against the Tigers, the Astros are looking for more of the same from their starting pitchers. After Philip Humber allowed just one earned run over seven innings in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Angels, Houston's starters own a 3.26 ERA through their first 12 games.
Bedard will be making his second start for the Astros. He hasn't allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings over two appearances -- one start and one relief appearance -- this season, and he's only given up two hits. Bedard is 4-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 11 career appearances against Oakland, including a 4-0 record and 0.55 ERA in his last five starts against the A's.
"It all starts with the starting pitcher," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We've had good starts throughout the season. If we continue that, there's going to be waves where our offense picks it up and there's going to be waves we fall a little short. But if the pitching can keep us in games, which is what's happened so far, we have a chance to surprise people."
The A's, on the other hand, watched their nine-game winning streak come crumbling down due to consecutive rough outings from their rotation. Brett Anderson gave up seven runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings on Saturday, and Jarrod Parker allowed eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings on Sunday.
Fortunately for Oakland, which looks to start a new winning streak, Milone will be taking the mound at home, where he's proven to be a better pitcher than he is on the road. Last year, Milone went 7-4 with a 2.74 ERA at the Coliseum, where opposing hitters posted a .240/.274/.345 batting line against him. His numbers on the road were less impressive: 6-6 with a 4.83 ERA and a .316/.352/.503 batting line against him.
Milone has picked up the win in both of his starts this season, and his home-road splits have held up so far. He gave up two runs on four hits over seven innings at home in his 2013 debut and allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings Wednesday on the road against the Angels.
Astros: Carter, Peacock returning to Oakland
While the Astros haven't been to Oakland in more than a decade, this week will be something of a homecoming for left fielder Chris Carter, who was traded from the A's in February in the Jed Lowrie trade. Carter was dealt to the A's in 2007 and spent five years in their organization, working his way up from Class A Advanced Stockton to the Majors.
Carter played 67 games for Oakland last year, batting .239 with an .864 OPS and 16 homers. His Bay Area roots extend beyond his time with the A's, as he was born in nearby Redwood City, Calif.
Right-hander Brad Peacock, who will start Tuesday, was dealt to Houston from Oakland alongside Carter. He never played for the A's, instead spending the entire 2012 season with Triple-A Sacramento.
A's: Crisp still sidelined by left groin strain
• Outfielder Coco Crisp was out of the starting lineup for the second day in a row Sunday due to a strained left groin and didn't play in Oakland's 10-1 loss to Detroit. Crisp participated in pregame activities, but A's manager Bob Melvin said Crisp will be a game-time decision for Monday's game.
"We'll see how he responds tomorrow after he wakes up," Melvin said.
• Infielder Adam Rosales, meanwhile, took batting practice again and is getting close to starting a rehab assignment. Rosales has been out with a strained left intercostal, and Melvin said he needs to be able to turn a double play and "make an agressive throw" before he's cleared to play.
• Although the A's are coming off back-to-back shaky starts, Oakland's bullpen has allowed one earned run or fewer in 12 of its first 13 games.
The A's will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day by having the Jackie Robinson Foundation (alumnus) Scholars Lauren Booker and Zenele Olatunji throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Booker is a recent graduate of Harvard Business School, and Olatunji is a freshman at Mills College in Oakland.
• Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Sunday. Reddick went 1-for-13 with a walk and seven strikeouts in three games against Detroit after missing three games with a sprained wrist.