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Astros-Athletics Preview

AP - Sports

The AL West-leading Oakland Athletics are surely sad to see baseball's worst team leave town.

Oakland tries to take advantage of its final matchup against the Houston Astros as these teams conclude their season series Sunday.

The Athletics (82-60) have made a habit of beating up on the Astros (47-95), taking 19 of 24 all-time matchups, including 14 of 18 this year. After moving into sole possession of first place in the division with Friday's 7-5 victory, Oakland hung on for a 2-1 win Saturday.

Jed Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes provided all the offense with their 11th and 22nd homers, respectively, as the A's moved a season-best 22 games over .500. Oakland has hit .302 with 20 homers in winning 10 of 13 overall.

After getting seven scoreless innings from Dan Straily, Oakland would love to see Bartolo Colon (14-6, 2.90 ERA) deliver a similar performance. The 40-year-old right-hander, though, is looking to snap a season-high five-start winless stretch after yielding four runs - one earned - in five innings of Tuesday's 5-1 defeat to Texas.

"I pitched the ball well," Colon, who has posted a 6.48 ERA during a three-game losing streak, told MLB's official website.

Colon may like his chances of bouncing back against the Astros, whose .300 on-base percentage is the AL's worst. Colon had posted a 1.89 ERA in winning three consecutive starts in the series before yielding five runs over four innings in a 5-4 loss Aug. 13.

Aside from that showing, Colon has surrendered two earned runs or fewer in each of his other nine home starts dating to May 31.

Chris Carter is 1 for 10 against Colon, and Matt Dominguez is 2 for 9. Carter, who spent his first three seasons with Oakland, is 9 or 66 (.136) with one homer and 24 strikeouts while playing in all 18 games against the A's this year.

Hoping to get back on track, the Astros give the ball to rookie Paul Clemens (4-4, 5.91) for his third big league start. The 25-year-old right-hander has gone without a decision while posting a 3.72 ERA since joining the rotation Aug. 27.

Clemens labored through 3 2-3 innings in Monday's 10-6 loss to Minnesota, surrendering four runs, seven hits and three walks.

"You can't be behind in counts consistently," he said after throwing 42 of his 77 pitches for strikes. "I have to attack, get ahead of guys and get in my favorable counts. I was putting those guys in a position of success getting behind in counts. That burned me."

Clemens has a 1.17 ERA in two relief appearances versus Oakland spanning 7 2-3 innings.

He will need to be careful against Cespedes, who is 11 for 28 (.393) with two homers in seven games this month after hitting .216 in August. The star left fielder is batting .378 with two homers and six RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak versus Houston.

Lowrie, who was acquired in the Carter deal, is hitting .313 with three homers, 12 RBIs and 12 runs in 16 games in the season series.

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