The power of winning one series can go a long way. At least that's what the Oakland A's are hoping after winning two of three against the Texas Rangers earlier in the week. Now they have a chance to capitalize and bring a great deal of momentum into June with three games against the Houston Astros, a team they've dominated in their first season in the American League West.
Oakland is 6-0 against the Astros and has outscored Houston 45-19 in 2013. The teams played early in April, with the wins helping the A's get off to their 12-4 start. Oakland is now rolling again, winning five of their last six after struggling during the first half of May.
In the A's last two series against the Royals and Rangers, the starting pitching has taken a major step forward and has resembled the staff that helped bring the team to a division title in 2012. In the last six games, the team has a 1.70 ERA and has allowed 36 hits in 53 innings.
However, the offense has slowed since starting out as one of the most productive lineups in the American League. In the last six contests, the club's .238/.307/.394 slash line leaves a little to be desired, but the struggles can be expected with so many players returning from injuries and getting back into rhythm.
Friday's series-opening tilt will have Tommy Milone (4-5, 3.47 ERA) take on Erik Bedard (0-2, 6.00 ERA). Milone ended his five-game losing streak his last time out against Kansas City, throwing six innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits.
The left-hander's lone run allowed came in the first inning, which continues to be an ongoing trend this season. Milone is allowing hitters a 1012 OPS in the first inning – drastically higher than his 706 clip for the year.
The veteran southpaw Bedard is still looking for his first win of the year. In his April 15 start against the A's, he allowed six runs in the first inning and was pulled after getting just one out. Otherwise, he's allowed four earned runs in his last 11 innings over two starts. One of those outings was a four-hit, five-inning start against the Rangers, when he struck out seven.
Saturday's game will feature A.J. Griffin (4-3, 3.59 ERA) and Lucas Harrell (3-5, 4.63 ERA). Harrell has struggled to get good run support from Houston's offense and has lost his last three decisions. In his last start, he allowed just one run on four hits to the Pirates, but his team lost 1-0.
Griffin is coming off a solid start against the Royals, but he didn't get a decision in a game the A's won, 4-3. The right-hander has bounced back after struggling for most of April, allowing a 2.36 ERA in May after posting a 4.65 mark in the season's first month. He's excelled in low-leverage situations, allowing a 444 OPS compared to a 915 OPS in high-leverage spots.
Sunday's last game of the set will have the newly turned 40-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-2, 4.31 ERA) and Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 4.93 ERA). Colon got his fourth win on Monday in Texas and has faced the Astros twice so far this year, earning wins in both outings. He allowed four earned runs in 12 innings against Houston.
Keuchel – a left-hander with a five-pitch arsenal – has struggled with command in his second big league season. He's allowed over four walks per nine innings, and was recently added to the rotation after pitching in relief prior to May 10. In his three starts since joining the rotation, the 25-year-old is 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA, allowing 21 hits in 18.1 innings.