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Straily shuts down Astros for A's

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rookie right-hander Dan Straily pitched seven shutout innings and Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie hit home runs, lifting the Oakland A's to a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday.

After dropping the opener in this four-game series against the last-place Astros, the A's have won two straight as they continue their tight race with Texas for the American League West title.

For much of the game, Straily (9-7) was locked in a duel with Astros rookie left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (4-2).

Straily blanked the Astros on two hits in seven innings, striking out seven, walking one and winning his third straight game.

"I thought he looked great," Lowrie said. "He was aggressive. He had his slider working really well. He was impressive today."

Oberholtzer allowed one run and two hits in six innings, striking out five and walking none. Oberholtzer said he was motivated to keep pace with Straily and hold the A's offense down.

"They're in a playoff race. For me, it was to try to go out there and match that intensity," Oberholtzer said. "They've got a good fan base. Yes, Straily's a good pitcher, and for me it was to just go out there and match zeros with him. Unfortunately they got one."

The A's took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Cespedes' leadoff home run into the left-field seats, his 22nd homer of the season. Oberholtzer threw him a 1-1 changeup, but Cespedes, who struck out in the first inning on a change, wasn't fooled by this off-speed pitch.

"Cespedes hit a mistake pitch out up over the plate, and that's what he's supposed to do with it," Oberholtzer said.

Oakland made it 2-0 in the seventh with two outs when Lowrie, a former Astro, sent reliever Josh Zeid's 1-2 pitch over the center field fence for his 11th home run.

"It seems like we're hitting our stride a little bit as far as the long ball goes," A's manager Bob Melvin said.

The Astros cut Oakland's lead to 2-1 in the eighth. With one out, Brett Wallace roped a double off reliever Dan Otero. Wallace went to third on pinch-hitter Marc Krauss' infield single. He scored on Brandon Barnes' ground ball, which Otero fielded and fired to second for the force, nearly throwing the ball past Lowrie.

Left-hander Sean Doolittle relieved Otero and faced the switch-hitting Jonathan Villar. Barnes stole second. But when Barnes tried to steal third, Doolittle wheeled and threw to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who tagged him out, ending the rally.

"I was just straight stealing," Barnes said. "He did a wheel play and just got me. I was going first move."

Doolittle said he had a feeling that Barnes might try to steal third.

"Late in the game, they like to try to make things happen," he said. "He's one of their big base stealers. Those guys like to try to get to third on the next pitch sometimes."

Instead of going to struggling closer Grant Balfour in the ninth, the A's stuck with Doolittle. Jose Altuve singled off Doolittle with one out in the ninth, but he retired Trevor Crowe on a fly ball to right and Jason Castro on a fly to left for his first save of the season in four chances.

"I had some inner rage," Doolittle said. "Now I know why Balfour yells at himself so much. You definitely get a little bit of adrenaline. Even more so than some of the pressure situations that we see in the seventh and eighth innings. It's a different beast going out there trying to get a save. I was trying to keep it in check and try to channel it and use it the right way, but it was a rush for sure."

Oberholtzer came in off his first career complete game and shutout, allowing four hits in a 2-0 victory over Seattle. Since joining the Astros' rotation on July 31, he had gone 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in six starts. That was the lowest ERA during that span of any starting pitcher in the American League.

Straily had gone 0-5 in seven starts before beating the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 28, allowing one run in six innings to end his career-long losing streak. Then he beat the Rangers, giving up two runs in five innings for his second straight win. Now he has a three-game streak.

Straily struck out a career-high 11 batters in his only other start against Houston, on April 5 -- his first start of the season. Straily got the win that night, allowing two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings of an 8-3 A's victory.

Straily retired the first eight Astros he faced Saturday before walking Barnes. Villar lined a single to left center for the Astros' first hit, but he tried to stretch his single into a double. Bad decision. Cespedes threw a strike to Callaspo at second and nailed Villar for the third out. Instead of having runners on first and third with the dangerous Altuve up, the Astros headed out to the field.

NOTES: A's center fielder Coco Crisp got a scheduled day off. "We try to be careful with him to keep him healthy," Melvin said. "He plays hard, he plays with that style in every inning of every game, and we've gotten ourselves into trouble at times maybe pushing a little too hard. It's not like I enjoy giving him a day off at this point in time, but we feel like it's the prudent thing to do." ... A's LHP Hideki Okajima cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento. ... Astros LF Robbie Grossman (strained right oblique) was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game but continued to make progress in his recovery. "It's feeling better every day, getting more range of motion without any pain, so I'm hoping the next couple days I can get some BP," Grossman said. ... After the game, the Astros recalled INF/OF Jimmy Paredes, INF Brandon Laird, RHP David Martinez and RHP Rhiner Cruz from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Astros also outrighted RHP Hector Ambriz from the 40-man roster and reinstated RHP Edgar Gonzalez from the 60-day disabled list and outrighted him to Double-A Corpus Christi.
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