By mere inches, the Astros finally recorded their elusive first win in Oakland on Tuesday night. Chris Young's would-be game-winning home run hooked just foul with two outs in the ninth, and Houston clinched the victory on the next pitch.
On Wednesday, the Astros will look to make a habit of winning at O.co Coliseum, as they look for their first series victory there in the second game of a three-game set.
Historically, the A's have dominated the Astros, having won 16 of 19 contests. The A's welcomed their new division rivals to the American League West this season by winning 10 straight against them to start the year.
But Houston has now taken two of its last three against Oakland. With the A's in the thick of a tight pennant race, manager Bob Melvin isn't taking anyone lightly.
"Their record isn't indicative of how tough of games we've had with them recently," Melvin said. "We won two out of three over at their place, but every game was close, and they do some things a little differently now. They're running a lot more, they're hitting and running, they're squeezing, and they've got some more speed in their lineup."
With Tuesday's loss, the A's failed to pick up any ground on the Rangers, who sit a game up in the AL West. Oakland currently holds the first AL Wild Card slot, a half game ahead of Tampa Bay and 2 1/2 up on Baltimore.
Highly touted rookie Jarred Cosart gets the ball for the Astros, looking to put a dent in Oakland's playoff plans. Cosart has been dominant in his five starts this season, posting a 1.36 ERA. Earlier this year, he became the first Astros pitcher to last at least six innings and allow no more than one earned run in each of his first four starts.
Cosart is one piece in an Astros starting rotation that has been sharp over the past two weeks. Houston starters have posted a 3.48 in the past 13 games.
"The starters have done a tremendous job," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "I said this about a week ago: They've done a great job of keeping us in the game and putting us in position to win ballgames. It's unfortunate we haven't been able to close out a lot of those games."
Cosart faces an A's offense that has turned things around a bit of late. Oakland is hitting .294 with 38 runs scored in the last six games.
"Overall, the at-bats that we had in Toronto were really good," Melvin said of last weekend's series. "We end up winning three of four. We didn't play our best baseball -- certainly not defensively -- but that's a tough venue and a tough team to go into their ballpark and take three out of four. So, we have to be satisfied with that and think that the offense is starting to come around."
Right-hander Jarrod Parker (8-6, 4.04 ERA) gets the ball for the A's. He picked up the win on Friday against the Blue Jays, marking his fifth quality start in his past six outings.
Astros: Appel to make two more starts
Houston's Mark Appel, this year's No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, will make two more starts for Class A Quad Cities before he is shut down for the season.
"He didn't say this, but he's probably getting fatigued with the workload this year and all the intensity of being the first pick of the Draft and the expectations," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
A's: Norris recovering
Oakland catcher Derek Norris, who has been battling back spasms, set Thursday's game -- with left-hander Erik Bedard scheduled to pitch for Houston -- as a target date to return to the A's starting lineup.
"I've never had anything like this," Norris said. "This is something fairly new. ... I couldn't even stand or walk. It got to the point where my muscles were so spasmed up that I really couldn't do a whole lot."
The right-handed-hitting Norris hasn't played since Saturday. He jogged and hit off a tee on Tuesday and said he feels "1,000 times better."
• Since July 12, the three rookie starters in the Astros rotation -- Cosart, Brad Peacock and Brett Oberholtzer -- have combined to post a 1.48 ERA (10 starts).
• The A's began the season 13-3 against AL West opponents, but they've gone just 17-19 since.
• Astros catcher Jason Castro is riding a career-high 11-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .381.