Published July 22, 2013
| Sports Network
The Oakland Athletics have certainly had the Houston Astros' number, and the new division rivals will meet up once again Monday night at Minute Maid Park to begin a three-game series.
Oakland has won all nine meetings so far this season against Houston, the newest addition to the American League West. In those meetings, the A's have outscored the Astros by a 68-31 margin. Overall, Oakland has won 14 of 15 in the all-time series, and that includes 11 straight.
Still, manager Bob Melvin cautioned his team about taking the Astros lightly.
"We have (had success)," Melvin said. "But you have to continue to play at the top of your game. You can't just continue to throw your glove out there. They've played well against some good teams this year, too, and they've made some changes along the way that have made them a better team."
Oakland began the day with a three-game cushion over the Texas Rangers in the American League West. The A's avoided a three-game sweep in Anaheim thanks to Sunday's 6-0 victory. Bartolo Colon earned his 13th win by tossing a four-hit shutout, as he is now tied for the Major League lead with three shutouts on the season.
Looking ahead to Monday's opener, Oakland will likely once again be without All-Star Yoenis Cespedes. The Home Run Derby champ has missed the last three games with a sore left wrist, which he suffered while taking batting practice before Friday's game.
"Until we get him in the cage, he swings full and gets some batting practice and is comfortable there, you won't see him in a game," Melvin said. "We're not there yet."
Meanwhile, Houston is looking to end a five-game skid after falling at home to Seattle on Sunday, 12-5. In fact, the Astros have lost 13 straight at home against division foes.
"The effort is definitely there," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "The execution is where we have the inconsistency and that's been the tale of our season. It's been a roller coaster ride. The games that are more frustrating is where you beat yourself. These are the games we cannot afford to lose."
The offense was unable to get much of anything going on Sunday against Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, who pitched six shutout innings and struck out seven. For Houston, Jordan Lyles lasted only four innings and gave up 10 runs (nine earned) on eight hits. A second inning grand slam by Seattle's Nick Franklin broke the game open.
Dallas Keuchel takes the hill for the Astros on Monday. The left-hander faced the A's on May 26 and allowed six earned runs on 10 hits. In his most recent outing, Keuchel gave up three earned runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings at Tampa Bay on July 13. Keuchel, who has shuffled between the bullpen and starting rotation this season, has gone 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA in 19 outings (12 starts.
His counterpart, Tommy Milone (8-8, 4.24 ERA), will be pitching on 11 days' rest. The southpaw last pitched against Pittsburgh on July 10, when he lasted only 2 2/3 innings and yielded three runs on seven hits.
"I think sometimes you feel drained without feeling like there's anything wrong," Milone said. "Just getting that extra time off obviously helps. I think that's what we're trying to go for right now. Without having to skip a start, we got to push it back a little bit and use the All-Star break to our advantage."