Maintaining their AL West lead won't be the only thing at stake for the Houston Astros when their series resumes in Oakland.
Bragging rights are on the line Tuesday night as Scott Kazmir faces his former team and friend Sonny Gray for the first time since the A's traded him to Houston in July.
Kazmir and Gray developed a close bond during their season and a half in Oakland before the veteran was shipped out at the trade deadline. The 31-year-old served as a mentor for the 24-year-old Gray, who has emerged as a Cy Young candidate this season.
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"It's just going to be fun," Kazmir said. "There's going to be a lot of trash talk through the whole deal."
While they each rank in the AL's top four in ERA, Kazmir (7-9, 2.50 ERA) and Gray (12-7, 2.36) are looking to bounce back from rare rocky performances.
Kazmir allowed three runs and seven hits over 4 1-3 innings Wednesday and did not factor into the decision in an 8-3 home loss to Seattle. The left-hander may be able to regroup at O.co Coliseum, where he went 12-6 with a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts over the past two seasons. He's 10-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 19 starts against the A's (59-79), but hasn't faced them since 2013.
Billy Butler has hit .344 over 32 career at-bats against Kazmir, while Coco Crisp is batting .306 with a home run, three doubles and 11 strikeouts in 36 at-bats.
Butler had a sixth-inning single Monday before Crisp delivered a two-run double to key last-place Oakland's series-opening 10-9 win that snapped a five-game skid. Crisp was a pinch-hitter for the third time in four games and has come through with a hit each time.
Houston (75-63), which had a 5 1/2-game division lead Aug. 26, had its advantage trimmed to two after its sixth loss in 11 games and Texas' win at Seattle.
The Astros may be catching Gray at an opportune time since he's 0-3 with a 4.32 ERA in his last four starts. He gave up a career high-tying six earned runs over five innings in Wednesday's 9-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, surrendering the AL's ERA lead to Houston's Dallas Keuchel.
"I felt fine," he told MLB's official website. "I didn't think all the pitches I made were that bad, but they put some good swings on the ball and had four runs before you knew it."
Gray is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts versus Houston this season and 3-1 with a 1.74 mark in four career home meetings. He tossed a five-hitter in a 3-1 win Aug. 7.
Jose Altuve, who has gone 6 for 18 versus Gray, went hitless Monday to snap a 20-game hitting streak at the Coliseum that was tied for the third longest in the ballpark's history. Carlos Correa, Jonathan Villar and Jake Marisnick homered, while Mark Canha and Josh Phegley went deep for the A's.
Marisnick is 5 for 7 with three home runs and seven RBIs over five games this month, while former A's infielder Jed Lowrie is batting .478 with three homers and seven RBIs in his last seven.
Oakland's Stephen Vogt isn't likely to play after being hit by a foul tip in the groin Sunday.