Athletics look to keep momentum, take series from Astros

MLB

After opening the season with a pair of rough outings against the Houston Astros, Oakland’s Cole Irvin has been one of the best pitchers in the majors.

The Athletics’ left-hander looks to continue his strong season, and perhaps finally achieve some success against the visiting Astros, in the decisive contest of this three-game set on Thursday.

In his third major-league season and first with the A’s, Irvin (3-4, 3.02 ERA), who entered spring training simply looking to make the big club, has the lowest ERA of any Oakland pitcher who has made two or more starts. However, his season got off to a rocky beginning by allowing eight runs and 12 hits over 9 2/3 innings while dropping his first two starts — both versus Houston.

Over six starts since then, Irvin is 3-2 with a 1.89 ERA– fourth-lowest in the AL from April 17-May 19. He gave up only a first-inning run and five hits over 6 2/3 frames but didn’t factor in the decision of a 5-4 loss at Minnesota on Saturday.

“It’s been huge to have a guy that goes out there and gives us a quality start every time,” infielder Matt Chapman told the Athletics’ official website about Irvin. “He’s going out there and keeping guys off balance.

“It’s good to see him have success.”

Now, Irvin will try for a positive start against the Astros, who evened the series between the American League West’s top two clubs with an 8-1 win on Wednesday. It came one night after Oakland snapped Houston’s season-high six-game winning streak.

Houston’s Yordan Alvarez, among the majors’ top hitters with a .343 average and riding a seven-game hitting streak, is 4-for-5 with a double and home run versus Irvin this season. Carlos Correa, who had two RBIs on Wednesday, has a double and homer in four at-bats against him.

Yuli Gurriel is 0-for-3 versus Irvin, but he had four hits with four RBIs on Wednesday. Batting .338, Gurriel is 14-for-32 (.438) with five doubles and eight RBIs against the A’s in 2021.

After Zack Greinke yielded four hits and struck out eight over eight strong innings on Wednesday, the Astros will turn to Luis Garcia (1-3, 3.34) in the series finale. The right-hander allowed a run and five hits, struck out five and walked two over five innings against Texas last weekend to earn his first career victory. Garcia is 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six starts this season.

“He’s been outstanding,” teammate Alex Bregman told the Astros of Garcia. “Really just a competitor, hard worker, great teammate.”

Garcia was solid in his only appearance against the A’s, allowing just one hit, two walks and striking out four over five scoreless innings of a 3-2 loss at Oakland last September.

Matt Olson is the only member of the A’s to get a hit off Garcia. Olson went hitless in four at-bats Wednesday after recording five hits in his previous three games.

Teammate Mark Canha had a hit Wednesday, and is batting .313 in nine games versus Houston this season.

–Field Level Media

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