A's hope to halt struggles against Astros

The Oakland Athletics' chances at an American League West title are slowly going by the wayside. They'll try to make up some ground on Friday when they start a three-game series versus the Houston Astros at Coliseum.

After getting swept in a four-game set by the division-leading Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last weekend, Oakland continued to struggle this week, dropping two of three to the Seattle Mariners to fall five games back in the AL West.

On Wednesday Jon Lester was outdueled by Seattle's Felix Hernandez in a 2-1 loss.

"It came as advertised," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Basically (it came down to) three swings of the bat and they got two of them."

Getting the call for the A's on Friday will be righty Jeff Samardzija, who has lost three of his last four starts. Samardzija pitched well in a loss to the Angels on Saturday, as he allowed two runs (1 earned) and four hits in eight innings. He also struck out nine without walking a batter, but fell to 4-4 to go along with a 3.57 ERA since joining the A's.

Samardzija has faced Houston 21 times (6 starts) and is 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA. In three starts against the Astros this season, though, he is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA.

Houston, meanwhile, will counter with righty Brett Oberholtzer, who is 4-10 with a 4.39 ERA. Oberholtzer lost his third consecutive decision last Friday to Texas, as he was pounded for seven runs and nine hits in just 4 1/3 innings.

He has posted a 7.71 ERA in his last three starts.

Oberholtzer is 1-2 in five starts versus the A's with a 4.03 ERA. He made consecutive starts against the A's in late July, allowing a combined five runs in 13 2/3 frames.

While the A's may enter this weekend struggling a bit, Houston comes in red- hot, riding a four-game winning streak after sweeping a brief two-game set from the Angels after firing manager Bo Porter.

"It's fun to watch right now," closer Chad Qualls said. "These kids are getting a valuable learning experience, and it can only get better for the future."

Oakland has won 10 of its 16 matchups with the Astros this season.