Having cooled off the hottest team in the American League, the Houston Astros will turn their attention to a rival that’s improved since the All-Star break when they open a three-game series against the host Oakland Athletics on Monday night.

Right-handers Jake Odorizzi (4-2, 3.56) of the Astros and Adam Oller (0-3, 8.56) of the A’s are the scheduled starters in a duel of teams that were the top two finishers in the AL West three straight years from 2018-20 before Oakland slipped to third last season.

The Astros remain atop the division, having extended their advantage to 13 games by winning three straight at Seattle following a doubleheader sweep of the New York Yankees coming out of the break Thursday.

The Mariners had won 14 in a row before Houston came to town and dealt them 5-2, 3-1 and 8-5 defeats.

As usual, Houston took apart its opponent in a variety of ways in Seattle, getting five home runs, including two from Jose Altuve, and strong starting pitching from Jose Urquidy, Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez.

For Altuve, his six-hit, four-run, three-RBI series validated his decision to bail on his All-Star Game invitation to spend time with his family.

“I really want to thank everybody that voted for me, that believe in me. I really need these four days,” Altuve explained at the time. “I’m putting my team first because I really think we have a chance to win this year.”

The Astros haven’t lost since the last time they played the A’s.

Coincidentally, Odorizzi and Oller were the starting pitchers in that one last Sunday in Houston, a game Oakland won 4-3 on a tie-breaking single by Stephen Vogt in the eighth inning.

Neither starter got a decision, with Oller having left trailing 3-0 in the fifth, before Odorizzi got replaced during a three-run Oakland sixth that tied the game.

A home run by Ramon Laureano began the A’s rally.

Odorizzi will make his third consecutive start against the A’s. He beat them 6-1 in his previous outing in Oakland with seven shutout innings.

The 32-year-old will face the A’s for the 13th time in his career (all starts), having gone 2-4 with a 3.70 ERA in the first 12. He has pitched well in Oakland, going 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts.

Odorizzi will see an A’s team that has won three of five since the break, including a season-best-tying three-game winning streak that ended in an 11-8 home loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday.

If there’s such a thing as momentum gained from the loss, A’s manager Mark Kotsay was claiming it after his guys rallied for seven runs in the last two innings of Sunday’s otherwise one-sided affair.

“Being down 10-0 (in the fifth inning), we could have folded up tent there and kinda just gone home,” he assessed. “It shows the character of this club. They continued to get good at-bats and made it a baseball game. At least made it exciting.”

A native of the Houston suburb of Conroe, Oller had made four consecutive starts and then five straight relief appearances before being inserted back into the starting rotation to face the Astros last Sunday. The rookie responded with arguably his best start of the season, limiting the Astros to three runs in 4 1/3 innings.

He allowed home runs to Kyle Tucker and Jeremy Pena.

–Field Level Media