Athletics-Astros preview

HOUSTON -- Oakland Athletics rookie right-hander Daniel Mengden, a Houston native drafted by his hometown franchise, will get an opportunity to show the Astros what they're missing Friday at Minute Maid Park.

Mengden (1-4, 3.48 ERA) will make his first career start against the organization that selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Mengden was packaged along with catcher Jacob Nottingham in the deal that sent veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir to Houston on July 23, 2015.

Selected from Triple-A Nashville on June 11, Mengden will make his sixth start of the career. His 31 strikeouts are tied for second in franchise history (since 1913) for the most by a pitcher over his first five appearances (Tim Hudson, 33 in 1999). Mengden, a product of nearby Texas A&M, began the season at Double-A Midland and finished 2-0 with a 0.78 ERA before his promotion to Nashville on May 1.

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With the Sounds, Mengden went 3-1 with a 1.39 ERA in seven starts. His ERA was the sixth-lowest in the minors at the time of his promotion.

And while Mengden will get the first crack at helping Oakland (37-49) make it two in a row over the Astros following the Athletics' 3-1 win on Friday night, the Oakland bullpen will also play a key role.

Right-handers John Axford, Ryan Dull and Ryan Madson combined to work three perfect innings in the series opener, with Axford first relieving lefty Ken Hill and notching two strikeouts in the seventh inning. Axford had struggled of late, blowing two saves while posting an 18.00 ERA over his last six appearances.

"That was great to see," Athletics manager Bob Melvin. "We've seen now how effective he can be. He's gone through a little bit of a tough stretch, obviously. I think looking at his history he's had some stretches through the course of the season where he hasn't been as effective and he works hard to get through it, but I think this was a big game for him to pitch in a close game like that, get a 1-2-3 inning. He looked good."

Right-hander Collin McHugh (5-6, 4.50 ERA) will make his 18th start of the season for the Astros. He allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings in his lone appearance against the Athletics this season but did not factor in the decision. McHugh is 4-1 with a 3.23 ERA in his career against the Athletics, a mark that includes six starts.

While the Astros (46-40) will get an opportunity to improve to 12 games over .500 against right-handed starters, they fell to 11-16 against southpaw starters, a surprising record given the right-handed presence of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in their lineup.

"We can certainly hit left-handed pitching," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We've got guys who can do it. We've got a few guys hitting under their career norms, and that's never good. Halfway through the season, I don't think we can declare that we can't hit lefties. I think we've got some left-handed pitchers we aren't racing up to the batter's box to face. But clearly, it's been a touch of a struggle for us against that side."