Brett Anderson takes aim at his first win of the season on Sunday when the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros conclude a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
Anderson was terrific in his Opening Day assignment against the Seattle Mariners, but was outdueled by Felix Hernandez and absorbed the loss, despite surrendering just two runs and four hits in seven innings. He also walked four batters and fanned six.
"When you're matched up against someone of Felix's caliber, you know runs are going to be at a premium for the most part, and I gave up more than he did," said Anderson, who has never faced the Astros. "He's a tremendous pitcher, obviously, $175 million worth. You go out there and try to throw up zeros because the track record says he's going to do it, too, and I was able to do that except one inning, and it turned out to cost us."
Houston, meanwhile, will counter with righty Lucas Harrell, who was brilliant in his first start against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, but like Anderson, matched up against someone just a little bit better. In fact he opposed someone who was nearly flawless, as the Rangers' Yu Darvish came within an out of a perfect game, leaving Harrell as a hard-luck loser.
Harrell, who is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three games (1 start) against the A's, gave up just a run and six hits in six innings in the loss to the Rangers.
"Lucas was outstanding," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "Even the time he got into jams, he was able to make pitches to make the double play to get out of them. It's tough to go six solid innings and give up one run the way he did tonight and end up taking a loss, but the guy on the other side of the field did a tremendous job."
On Saturday, Jed Lowrie clubbed a solo home run among his three hits to lead Oakland to a 6-3 victory. Coco Crisp and Seth Smith each smacked solo shots as well, while Bartolo Colon surrendered three runs over six solid innings for the A's, who have won four straight, including an 8-3 decision in Friday's series opener.
"I'm confident with my swing right now," Lowrie said. "I'm working myself into good hitters' counts, and even when I get behind, I'm not trying to do too much."
Colon (1-0), making his first start since a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone ended his 2012 campaign prematurely, scattered eight hits and fanned two without issuing a walk.
Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook each spun a perfect inning in relief before Grant Balfour retired the Astros in order in the ninth to record his first save of the season.
Jason Castro clubbed a three-run homer to account for the Astros' offense, while Bud Norris (1-1) allowed five runs -- two earned -- on six hits over 5 2/3 frames in Houston's fourth straight loss.
Oakland's only previous trip to Houston came in an interleague series in 2007, and the A's took two of three.