Astros-Athletics Preview

The Associated PressSeptember 6, 2013

The Oakland Athletics missed their chance to take sole possession of the AL West lead by dropping their series opener with the lowly Houston Astros.

A.J. Griffin will try to help the A's get back into the win column with another strong outing Friday night.

Oakland (80-60) had an opportunity to overtake an idle Texas atop the division Thursday but fell 3-2 to Houston. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes committed a key error on Jose Altuve's RBI single in the second inning, allowing the Astros to take an early three-run lead.

Cespedes also grounded into a fielder's choice to end a two-run eighth inning, and the A's dropped one-half game behind the Rangers.

"We were a little in-between on a couple of plays and those things end up costing you in close games," manager Bob Melvin said.

Griffin (12-9, 3.84 ERA) will try to aid Oakland's chances of passing Texas on Friday by building on his second straight win, a 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. The right-hander allowed a solo homer, four other hits and one walk over seven innings in that game while striking out seven.

"(Pitching coach Curt Young) and I found some stuff mechanically, keeping my head on line a bit more, and that helped tremendously. I felt I could execute my pitches and get the ball where I needed it more," Griffin told the team's website.

Griffin is 2-0 in three career starts against the Astros - all this season - but he's posted a 4.50 ERA in those games. He's benefited from a combined 17 runs of support.

Griffin will try to help the A's regain their dominance over Houston (47-93) in this matchup. Oakland has dropped four of six to the Astros after winning the first 10 matchups this season.

Dallas Keuchel (5-8, 4.77) will try to lead Houston to another win in the series while snapping a personal three-game skid. The left-hander has given up a combined three runs in his last two outings but has gotten two runs of support.

He allowed three runs in the first inning against Seattle on Saturday but pitched six scoreless frames after that in a 3-1 loss.

"After that tough first inning, Keuchel settled in and went six strong after that. It was pretty impressive," manager Bo Porter said.

Keuchel gave up one run in six innings against Oakland on July 22 but was denied a win when the A's rallied for a 4-3 win. He's 0-1 with a 4.00 ERA in two starts and four overall appearances versus the A's this season, and Nate Freiman has two doubles and a home run in his six at-bats against him.

Houston would probably love to get Jason Castro - out the last three games due to a sprained right knee - back in the lineup because 4 for 9 with two homers this year against Griffin.

The Astros are seeking their first three-game win streak since they won four in a row June 12-16.