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A's Straily ignores Triple-A talk, baffles Astros

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Oakland Athletics right-hander Dan Straily had done the math, and he realized that his first start of the 2013 season would likely be his last for the foreseeable future, at least with the big-league club.

Undaunted, Straily delivered arguably the best outing of his young career Friday night as Oakland turned one inning of exquisite execution into an 8-3 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

To make room for veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon, who is set to return from the suspended list Saturday, the Athletics targeted Straily (1-0) for demotion to Triple-A Sacramento following his start. Straily disregarded the distraction and allowed only two runs on five hits while striking out a career-high 11 batters over 6 2/3 innings.

"It was something I thought about. I kept trying not to," Straily said. "I can do basic math. There are six of us (starting pitchers) for five spots. I'm the least experienced and the youngest guy so you take it in stride, go down there and do some work and see you later. I don't feel like it's a down note for me. I'm still pretty excited about today so it's difficult to be upset about anything."

Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp finished 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs to pace the Athletics' 10-hit attack. Oakland (3-2) took full advantage of the Astros' ongoing struggles at the plate as four pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts to extend the Astros' early futility.

Houston (1-3) became the first team in major league baseball history to open a season with four consecutive games of 10-plus strikeouts on offense. The Astros have accumulated 56 strikeouts in just 129 at-bats.

"In the major leagues you're going to get at least one pitch to hit, and when you get it you've got to put it in play hard," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "And if you don't put it in play hard you're going to find yourself chasing the pitcher's pitch, and that's what happened tonight."

If Straily needed a tonic for his uneven Cactus League performances, he found it in the form of the Astros' scuffling lineup. Straily allowed just three hits two trips through the Houston batting order, taking heed of the performance the Texas Rangers received from Yu Darvish Tuesday.

After Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison matched his career high for strikeouts by fanning nine Astros in Sunday night's season opener, Darvish (14 strikeouts) and Alexi Ogando (10) bypassed their previous bests. Straily, who spotted his fastball and controlled his slider, did the same by punching out Brett Wallace in the sixth for his ninth strikeout.

Twice previously Straily, making his eighth career start, recorded eight strikeouts in a game, including on his last trip to the Lone Star State (Sept. 24, 2012, at Texas). By the time Straily reached double-figure strikeouts in the sixth inning, the Athletics were comfortably ahead.

"He was terrific," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of Straily. "That might have been the best we've seen him pitch here."

Oakland exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning, chasing Astros right-hander Brad Peacock before terrorizing Houston relievers Xavier Cedeno and Rhiner Cruz. Cedeno failed to retire any of the seven batters he faced, surrendering a two-run single to Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson after walking three batters, and before plunking Eric Sogard.

Oakland excelled without showcasing a power display. Two runs scored on a fielding error by Astros shortstop Marwin Gonzalez in the at-bat prior to John Jaso delivering a squeeze bunt that scored Josh Reddick.

Chris Young worked a 10-pitch walk before Donaldson plated Yoenis Cespedes and Jaso. Crisp smacked a two-run double off Cruz to cap the scoring in the fifth. Crisp homered off Peacock to lead off the first.

Peacock (0-1) pitched into the fifth inning and allowed just two runs. After scuffling through a 28-pitch first inning, he quickened his pace and retired eight consecutive batters before Crisp chased him with the first of his two doubles in the fifth. Crisp suffered a mild back strain diving for a ball off the bat of Chris Carter in the first inning. The subsequent treatment he received during the game obviously proved beneficial.

"I was happy to get one hit today, and then more came," Crisp said.

"It kind of loosened up as the game went on; it was kind of tight. They were thinking about taking me out but I didn't feel like it was broken. I got some work done to it throughout the course of the game and was able to make it."

NOTES: Athletics first baseman Brandon Moss remained in the Bay Area after leaving Thursday's game against the Seattle Mariners in the sixth inning to join his pregnant wife, who had gone into labor, at the hospital. Moss remains on the active roster and could join the team this weekend. ... On Thursday, the Astros acquired left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley from Oakland in exchange for minor league outfielder Jake Goebbert. The Astros sought a left-handed long reliever with American League experience and Blackley fit the bill, posting a 7-7 record and 5.11 ERA over 30 career appearances (21 starts) in the AL. ... The Athletics' opening five starting pitchers -- Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily -- have an average age of 25.03 years, the youngest rotation in the majors. Bartolo Colon, 39, is scheduled to start for Oakland on Saturday.
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