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Athletics-Astros Preview

A bitter sweep at the hands of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers put the Houston Astros' division chances at risk while also moving their wild-card advantage into the red category.

The Astros hope to reverse their luck against the league's worst team and strengthen their postseason spot when they open a series against the visiting Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

Houston (77-70) lost eight times on a 10-game road trip, the last four against Texas to swap their 1 1/2-game division lead with a 2 1/2-game deficit. The Astros sat atop the West for 49 consecutive days but are now positioned 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the second wild card.

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''It's difficult to absorb these losses when we've put so much time and energy in,'' manager A.J. Hinch said. ''Obviously, we feel pretty bad about the way these four games went.''

The perfect rebound would typically come against the last-place Athletics (63-84), but the A's have won five of their last six against Houston.

Oakland has lost 10 of 15 in September but was responsible for Mike Fiers' only loss since coming to the Astros in a trade from Milwaukee on July 30.

Fiers (2-1, 3.07 ERA) held Oakland to one run in 6 2-3 innings but didn't factor into the decision of a 5-4 loss on Aug. 9. His second career start against the A's resulted in four runs over five innings of a 10-9 loss on Sept. 7.

Both of those games came on the road, though, where Fiers is 1-1 with a 4.55 ERA in five appearances with the Astros - four starts. The right-hander hasn't allowed an earned run in two outings at Minute Maid Park, including his no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers last month.

Fiers surrendered three solo home runs in seven innings to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday while not factoring into the decision of a 5-3 win. He will welcome a return home, where the Astros are an AL-best 48-24.

Houston finishes a nine-game homestand against the Rangers from Sept. 25-27 before closing the season at Seattle and Arizona.

''There's nothing really we can do but work on it, be a little more tough-minded and get home in front of our fans and play our brand of baseball that we've been accustomed to for five-plus months,'' Hinch said.

Oakland will try to win its third straight series against Houston with Felix Doubront on the mound.

Doubront (3-2, 4.99) makes his eighth appearance and sixth start since coming over from Toronto at the trade deadline. He earned a win over the Astros two starts ago, allowing four runs in six innings of a 10-9 victory.

The left-hander has an 8.27 ERA in his last three starts, bloated from the seven runs he surrendered over 4 1-3 innings in a 12-4 loss to Texas on Sunday. Doubront served up three home runs for the first time in his career, and he was charged with six of the Rangers' seven runs between the fourth and fifth innings.

''I was throwing the ball really good until those innings," said Doubront, who is 2-0 with a 4.97 ERA against Houston.

Colby Rasmus is 7 for 17 with a home run, two doubles and two triples against Doubront.

Houston's Jason Castro went 1 for 2 in Thursday's loss after missing 16 games with a right quadriceps strain. Jed Lowrie was 1 for 4 in his return after getting hit by a pitch on the left shin Monday.