Thanks to a string of strong performances from their starting rotation, the Oakland Athletics are on a roll.
Joe Kennedy looks to give the A’s another solid outing Tuesday when they visit Houston for the first time in the opener of a three-game series.
The Athletics (34-28) and Astros (26-37) have met just once before, when the A’s swept a three-game series in Oakland June 7-9, 2002.
Oakland is coming off its first three-game sweep in San Francisco and has won 10 of its last 13 games. The Athletics’ starters have not allowed more than two earned runs in an outing over those 13 games - the longest such stretch for the team since April 1978 - and are 7-2 with a 1.20 ERA over that span.
Lenny DiNardo threw six innings in Sunday’s 2-0 win, one day after Dan Haren went seven innings in a 6-0 victory. The consecutive shutouts were the first since May 31-June 1 of last season for Oakland, which leads the American League with seven shutouts.
“I think we feed off each other,” DiNardo said. “You go out and see a great outing like the previous games before me, and it’s something you can build on. You watch good pitching, and it helps you to see what they do to get guys out.”
Kennedy has pitched twice over the last 13 games, allowing one run in eight innings of Oakland’s 10-inning, 3-2 loss to Minnesota on June 1 and two runs in seven innings of Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Boston. The victory was the first since May 10 for Kennedy, who has allowed three or fewer runs in all but one of his 11 starts this season, but has often been plagued by a lack of run support.
“It’s nice to actually get a win,” he said. “I keep seeing that wins don’t really mean anything or establish how well you pitch in a game. But it’s always nice to get one.”
Kennedy is 1-2 with a 4.79 ERA in three career starts against the Astros, but has not faced them since 2005 while with Colorado.
He will be up against a Houston team that has dropped 18 of its last 24 games, including Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The Astros managed just three hits against the Cubs in a makeup of an April 11 game that was postponed because of snow.
The Astros will have ace Roy Oswalt (6-4, 3.38 ERA) on the mound in the series opener, but they have lost the last five games he has started. Oswalt allowed four runs in six innings of Thursday’s 7-6 defeat to Colorado, but didn’t receive a decision as the bullpen blew the game after he left with a 6-4 lead.
Oswalt, who had received only six runs of support in his previous four starts, hasn’t helped himself much lately, allowing at least four runs in three of his last four outings.
“I was trying to get through seven or eight innings without using the bullpen,” he said Thursday. “I got the pitch count and didn’t throw great, but good enough to last.”
Oswalt’s only previous start against the A’s came in the opener of the 2002 series, when he allowed five runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-3 loss.