Right-hander Luis Garcia will try to do to the Oakland Athletics what lefty Jesus Luzardo did to the Houston Astros earlier this season when the young pitchers duel Wednesday night in the fourth game of the American League West showdown series in Oakland.
The A’s (25-15) have won two of the first three in the five-game set, allowing them to increase their lead in the AL West to 4 1/2 games with less than three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Oakland has taken five of eight so far in the season series.
Garcia (0-0, 2.08 ERA) will attempt to keep the Astros’ flickering hopes alive in his first major-league start.
The 23-year-old pitched brilliantly out of the bullpen in his major-league debut on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing just one run and one hit over 4 1/3 innings in a 6-5 loss.
Garcia will be supported by a potent bat that’s been missing of late with Tuesday’s reinstatement of Alex Bregman from the injured list. The star third baseman played only in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.
The Astros (22-21) also are hoping to get Jose Altuve (sprained knee) back this week. He is eligible to be activated off the injured list on Sunday, and Houston manager Dusty Baker indicated Tuesday that his standout second baseman appears headed toward that transaction.
“He ran today and looked pretty good,” Baker reported. “He looked real good, actually. His straightaway movement was good. The lateral movement around the bases is still, you know, something to be desired a little bit, but we’ll do more of that (Wednesday). I’ll tell you, we’re very happy where he is on his progress right now.”
Garcia has a chance to duplicate a feat Oakland’s Luzardo recorded earlier this season when he beat the Astros for his first big-league win. The 22-year-old limited Houston to two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings in a 7-2 home win on Aug. 9.
Luzardo (2-2, 4.23) has gone 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA in two career head-to-heads with the Astros, including one as a starter.
In his quest to end a personal two-game losing streak, Luzardo would benefit from the type of performance Khris Davis turned in out of nowhere in Oakland’s 4-2 win in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Davis, who has been demoted to part-time status, belted his first home run in more than a month and drove in two runs to provide an unexpected boost in the win.
A’s manager Bob Melvin assured between games that he hasn’t given up on a slugger who just two seasons ago smacked 48 homers and collected 123 RBIs.
“We’re trying to find the right matchups to get him going again,” Melvin noted. “With the injuries and so forth, this is the type of guy that can carry a team. Every game he doesn’t play hurts me some. To his credit, he’s working really hard and feels good about where his swing is right now.”
–Field Level Media