The confluence of an extra-inning game in Anaheim that extended deep into the night on Thursday and a number of nagging injuries to their regulars contributed to a loss for the Houston Astros on Friday in the opener of their three-game series with the visiting Oakland Athletics.
Houston was without five regulars against Oakland: All-Stars Jose Altuve (knee) and Yordan Alvarez (hand) plus Michael Brantley (shoulder), along with Yuli Gurriel and Martin Maldonado, both of whom were given the night off following the late arrival from California.
The Astros’ lineup featured four rookies and mustered only four hits in a 5-1 defeat.
Houston manager Dusty Baker is banking that a refreshed lineup Saturday will offer more punch.
“The guys that were up there were doing the best that they could at that time,” Baker said. “We had a rookie lineup in there … but you don’t get any excuse or alibis. They beat us, so we just have to come out (Saturday) and hopefully be fresher (Saturday) than we were.”
Right-hander Justin Verlander (11-3, 2.00 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Saturday. He leads the majors in victories and has won each of his last three starts, posting a 0.86 ERA and .462 opponent OPS over 21 innings.
Verlander has allowed one or fewer runs in five of his past six starts and has worked at least six innings in eight of his past nine outings.
Verlander is 14-7 with a 2.66 ERA over 25 career starts against the Athletics with 167 strikeouts in 162 2/3 innings. He did not factor into the decision of the Astros’ 5-4 victory at Oakland on June 1 after allowing three runs on two hits and two walks with six strikeouts over seven innings.
Left-hander Jared Koenig (1-2, 6.38 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Athletics. He was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday but hasn’t pitched since returning to the majors. He will make his fifth big-league career appearance, all starts.
Koenig worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing two hits and four walks in a 4-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on June 19, his first career win. He surrendered three runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Royals on June 25, his last appearance before being optioned to Las Vegas.
Koenig will make his first career appearance against the Astros and his fourth start on the road.
Oakland center fielder Skye Bolt recorded just his second career multi-hit game and first three-hit game in the Friday victory. He produced singles in the fifth and seventh innings before his two-out, two-run homer in the ninth provided the Athletics some welcome insurance. Bolt’s three RBIs were a career high.
Bolt was on the Opening Day roster but did not appear in a game before landing on the injured list due to a right oblique strain. He was reinstated from the 60-day IL on June 30 and has appeared in 13 of 14 games since.
“We’ve always been really kind of high on Skye in terms of what he’s been able to do performance-wise in Triple-A,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “And I think we’re starting to see a little bit of that. We’re starting to see a confidence now that we haven’t seen before in some of his call-ups. So hopefully this can continue.
“He has these abilities, that home run to left-center, it looked like a right-handed pull home run. And he’s got a lot of a lot of juice in the bat and it’s starting to show up.”
–Field Level Media