Athletics-Astros Preview

HOUSTON -- After their pitching carried them to a pair of victories this week and set the stage for a series sweep of the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros turned to their offense to seal the deal in a 9-8 win Wednesday night.

Entering Wednesday, the Astros owned the second-best ERA (3.43) in the American League since May 1. Despite an off night on the mound in the finale against Seattle, Houston (46-39) generally is showcasing impressive pitching depth.

"We have a lot of guys that are pitch executers and are really good at it," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Sometimes that comes with some disrespect (from the opposition). I feel like our guys can stand their own, and when we go out and pitch our game, we have every opportunity to win (that) game, which is the role of the starting pitcher.

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"You have to earn that over time, and sometimes the narrative doesn't follow the facts. I love our pitching staff, we have ways to get better, and I look forward to seeing if the script can maintain this type of consistency the rest of the season."

Astros right-hander Doug Fister (8-5, 3.66 ERA) will seek to rebound against the Athletics on Thursday from consecutive losses following a career-high-tying, seven-game winning streak. Fister surrendered five runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on July 2, the most runs he allowed since April 14 against the Kansas City Royals.

Fister has enjoyed success against the Athletics this season and throughout his career. He is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two starts against Oakland in 2016, allowing one earned run over 12 2/3 innings. For his career, Fister is 7-6 with a 3.17 ERA over 15 starts against the A's.

Athletics left-hander Rich Hill (8-3, 2.31 ERA) will make his 10th career appearance and sixth start against the Astros, against whom he is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA.

Hill will make his second start since his return from the disabled list. Sidelined for the entire month of June due to left groin discomfort, Hill allowed two runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings against the Pirates on July 2, a game the Athletics lost 4-2.

"Everything was good command," Hill said. "Breaking ball was good, changeup was good, slider was good. I just expect more out of myself going out there. When we go out there and score two runs we (need) a shutdown inning to keep us ahead and let them work. That's one thing that didn't sit well with me."

The 36-year-old veteran had won five consecutive starts before landing on the DL.

The Athletics (36-49) have lost six of seven games and were swept in three games in their last visit to Houston. Perhaps the only recent bright spot for Oakland was the Wednesday performance of ace right-hander Sonny Gray, who allowed one run over six innings in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins.