OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rookie right-hander Brad Peacock pitched seven strong innings, and the last-place Houston Astros knocked the Oakland Athletics out of first place in the American League West with a 3-2 victory Thursday night.
The A's pulled even with Texas on Wednesday with an 11-4 rout of the Rangers, but they now trail in the race by a half-game.
Peacock was in the A's organization until Feb. 4, when Oakland sent him to Houston, along with first baseman Chris Carter and catcher Max Stassi, for shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Fernando Rodriguez.
Peacock went 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA in his first two career starts against Oakland this season, pitching 4 1/3 innings each time.
This time he allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings, matching his career high. Peacock (4-5) struck out nine, one off his career high, and walked one.
Were the A's flat after winning two of three in their crucial series with Texas?
"It looks like you're flat when you're not hitting," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "(Peacock) got ahead of us and got on a roll. Looked like everything he was throwing was working."
Especially his curveball, which he said was his best of the season.
"Definitely," Peacock said. "I had a good one here when I was here last time. Something about that mound I like with the curveball. Been working on it and carried it over."
A's rookie right-hander Sonny Gray (2-3) allowed just three runs -- two earned -- on seven hits over eight innings. He struck out seven and walked one in his second career start against Houston. In his first start against the Astros on Aug. 15, he threw eight shutout innings in a 5-0 Oakland win.
"I've got to do a better job early in the game," Gray said. "We got off to a rough start. I started mixing my fastballs much better. I started focusing on making pitches and getting ground balls."
Peacock took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but Eric Sogard roped a leadoff triple, and Stephen Vogt brought him home with a double high off the right-center wall. That was it for Peacock. Left-hander Kevin Chapman came in and struck out Coco Crisp for the first out, then retired the dangerous Josh Donaldson on a ground ball to second base.
After Lowrie laid down a bunt single, moving Vogt to third, right-hander Jorge De Leon came on and faced pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo hit a dribbler in front of the plate that De Leon fielded and shoveled to catcher Matt Pagnozzi, but Vogt slid home safely in a close play at the plate.
Astros manager Bo Porter raced out to argue the call and was quickly thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Mark Ripperger.
"When you slow it down, it looks like the guy probably was safe," Porter said. "But in my opinion, at that point of the game, the ball beat him there and from the way I saw it from the dugout, it looked like he was clearly out. Obviously if you had the benefit of replay and you could slow it down frame by frame, you may see it a little bit different. But at that point I have to defend my team."
Astros right-hander Josh Fields came on and got Yoenis Cespedes to hit a ground ball to third baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who stepped on third for the force. Fields pitched a scoreless ninth to record his third save.
The Astros sent six batters to the plate in the first inning against Gray and took a 1-0 lead. Jose Altuve lined a one-out single but was picked off first by Gray. Trevor Crowe roped a double to right-center, extending his hitting streak to seven games. After Brett Wallace walked, Carter lined an RBI single to left.
Houston increased its lead to 3-0 in the second.
With one out, L.J. Hoes lined a single to left and advanced to second on Pagnozzi's infield single up the middle. Gray struck out Jonathan Villar looking for out No. 2, but Altuve lined an RBI single to score Hoes, and when left fielder Cespedes booted the ball, Pagnozzi scored all the way from first.
NOTES: A's C Derek Norris (fractured left big toe) was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday, the first day he was eligible to return. He went 6-for-14 (.429) with two home runs and four RBIs in three games during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento. Norris is batting .232 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs in 84 games with the A's. In 26 games since July 1, he was batting .345. ... Astros C Jason Castro (right knee cyst) was out of the lineup for the third straight game, but he took batting practice and might return to the lineup Friday night against the A's. Castro left Monday's game with the Minnesota Twins after fouling a ball off his right knee and aggravating the cyst. He had the cyst drained Tuesday. ... Astros 3B Matt Dominguez (illness) missed his third straight game. Dominguez said members of the team's medical staff told him they believe he has a sinus infection. Dominguez said he received medicine for his illness and there's a chance he could return to the lineup Friday night.