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A's reclaim AL West lead after 7-5 win

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Josh Donaldson went 3-for-5 with a home run, double and two RBIs, powering the Oakland A's to a 7-5 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night and back into sole possession of first place in the American League West.

   The A's moved a half game ahead of the Texas Rangers, who lost 6-5 to the Los Angeles Angels.

   "It doesn't matter until the end of the season, we know that too well," Donaldson said of the slim lead. "We're really not trying to focus on it right now. We're trying to take care of our business."

   The A's had lost four of their past six games against the last-place Astros before beating them in the second game of this four-game series.

   Donaldson doubled and scored in the third inning, singled and scored in the fourth and hit his 21st home run of the season in the sixth, a two-run shot off right-hander Philip Humber that gave the A's a 7-4 lead. He also stole a base.

   The A's had 13 hits, including a bunt single by Chris Young that drove in a run in the second. In the fourth, Donaldson stole third and scored on a groundout by Yoenis Cespedes.

   "That shows that we have multiple ways that we can score runs," Donaldson said. "That's what it takes. If you're going to score seven, eight runs, it's not all the time going to come by the long ball. It's going to come by guys manufacturing and having good approaches at the plate."

   A's right-hander A.J. Griffin (13-9) gave up four runs and seven hits but struck out nine, matching his career high, and grinded his way through six innings for the win. He got sharper later in his outing, finishing with three straight scoreless innings while striking out the side in the fifth and fanning two Astros in the sixth.

   "That was huge," Griffin said of his strong finish. "Going out there in the fourth inning, kind of struggling a little bit, Bob stuck with me, and that helped my confidence a little bit. I wanted him to be happy with his decision. I just tried to go out there and execute my game plan, keep them off-balance, and the results were there. It worked."

   Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel (5-9) lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and five runs. He struck out three, walked two and threw 95 pitches, just 61 for strikes. Keuchel, who had quality starts in his previous two outings, lost his fourth straight game. He's 1-6 in his past 14 starts.

   "I felt pretty good out there," Keuchel said. "I didn't have that put-away pitch. They fouled off a bunch of pitches and kind of made me a little less aggressive than I would like to be. I thought a few of those inside fastballs looked pretty good. I just didn't get the call today. That's the big difference.

   "I don't really say too much to umpires, but I felt a few of those inside fastballs were right there in the zone. It looked like he had a pretty decent zone. It's just one of the frustrating parts. I can't live on the outside corner of the plate all day long. I was getting them to chase the slider early and trying to back it up late with the fastball inside. Just wasn't getting the call and forced to make some more pitches they were fouling off."

   A's center fielder Coco Crisp led off the sixth with a triple against Humber, and Donaldson sent Humber's first pitch over the left field fence.

   The Astros scored a run in the ninth off A's closer Grant Balfour, who struck out Matt Dominguez with runners on second and third to end the game and notch his 37th save.

    "They battled all the way to the end," Astros manager Bo Porter said of his team. "It was good to see. Really good at-bats during the ninth. They made him throw a bunch of pitches. They definitely had to earn it there."

   NOTES: Jason Castro (right knee cyst) returned to the lineup after missing three games and started at designated hitter. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. Castro has not been cleared to catch. ... Dominguez (sinus infection) returned to the lineup after missing three games. He went 1-for-5 with two RBIs and four strikeouts. ... Oakland C Derek Norris (fractured left big toe) was in the lineup, one day after being activated from the disabled list and went 1-for-3. He hadn't played since Aug. 20 against Seattle. ... Astros OF Robbie Grossman (strained right oblique) missed his third straight game. He worked with trainers on the field before the game but has yet to swing a bat since leaving Tuesday night's game against Minnesota.
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