A's try to string wins together versus upstart Astros

(SportsNetwork.com) - Two runs were enough for the Oakland Athletics to snap their four-game losing streak on Monday night in their opener with the Houston Astros.

The way Sonny Gray has been pitching this season, that might just be enough support to secure a series victory on Tuesday night when the clubs resume a three-game set.

Though it ended up being his first loss of the season, Gray was excellent on Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox, holding them to just one run and three hits over seven innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out nine, one off his season high, but took a 2-0 loss as Oakland went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Despite allowing two or fewer runs for the seventh time in eight starts this season, Gray fell to 4-1 with a 1.61 earned run average.

The right-hander is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in three career starts against the Astros.

Astros starter Roberto Hernandez took his own tough-luck, 2-0 setback on May 8 at the Los Angeles Angels, but then struggled on Thursday against the Toronto Blue Jays in a no-decision.

Hernandez lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on six hits and three walks. He yielded a pair of home runs and did not strike out a batter, leaving him 1-3 on the year with a 4.12 ERA.

The 34-year-old righty is 5-7 with a 4.84 ERA in 14 career meetings with Oakland, all but one of those starts.

The Athletics managed just a pair of runs in Monday's opener, but an excellent effort on the mound resulted in the club picking up a 2-1 win as starter Drew Pomeranz and three relievers combined to limit the Astros to just two hits.

Brett Lawrie drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and Edward Mujica, Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard combined for 4 2/3 hitless frames to finish off the game after Pomeranz was lifted in the fifth inning due to left shoulder tightness.

Mujica relieved Pomeranz and stranded a pair in the fifth to pick up the win, just the second in the last 12 games for the AL West cellar-dwellers.

"We proved to ourselves we can (win close games)," said Clippard, whose club came in 1-13 in one-run games this season. "It was exactly what we needed."

Lance McCullers gave the Astros a solid effort on the mound in his big league debut, though first-place Houston still had a five-game win streak halted. The promising 21-year-old, who boldly wore Batman cleats, made the jump from Double-A and scattered one run, three hits and three walks while striking out five over 4 2/3 frames.

"I felt like it went pretty well," McCullers said. "It feels more real now after the game that I pitched a game in Minute Maid Park for the Astros."

The only run the Astros managed came on Evan Gattis' sacrifice fly in the first inning.

Houston had won four straight over the Athletics, including a three-game sweep in Oakland from April 24-26.