Coming off their first loss in six games, the Oakland Athletics may be feeling good about their chances of getting back on track against the Houston Astros.
Having swept the first two series, the visiting Athletics try to continue their domination of the Astros in the opener of a three-game set Friday night.Oakland (25-23) posted back-to-back wins at Texas before falling 3-1 on Wednesday. Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Seth Smith, the team's 4-6 hitters in the series finale, went a combined 0 for 10 and the Athletics were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.Oakland has thrived in such situations versus Houston (14-33) this season, going 23 for 62 (.371) in taking all six matchups. The A's have also posted a 2.83 ERA in those games while striking out 57 over 54 innings, improving to 11-1 in the all-time series."We have played them well. We need to continue to play well," manager Bob Melvin told MLB's official website. "You can't just throw your glove out there and think you're going to win. They've been swinging the bat a lot better, and they've made some personnel moves. They look to be a better team right now."The Astros just took two of three from Kansas City, winning 3-1 on Wednesday. J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer and Jason Castro went 3 for 4.Martinez is 10 for 29 with two long balls, four doubles and seven RBIs over his last nine games."I'm feeling good," he said. "I feel like I've been hitting the ball hard, not just today but the last couple of series. I feel like I'm going up there with my plan and approach and I'm not changing it within my at-bat and constantly changing plans like I feel like I have in the past."Martinez will try to stay hot against Tommy Milone (4-5, 3.47 ERA), who allowed one run and five hits over six innings to snap a career-worst five-start losing streak Saturday in a 2-1 win over Kansas City.A repeat performance could be hard to come by on the road, where Milone has gone 1/3 with a 4.94 ERA -- significantly higher than his 2.43 mark at home. He gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings to beat the Astros 11-2 on April 15.Fellow left-hander Erik Bedard (0-2, 6.00) was tagged for a season-high six runs while recording just one out opposite Milone that night, but he's coming off his longest outing of the year. Bedard surrendered two runs and seven hits over six innings during Saturday's 4-2, 11-inning win at Pittsburgh."He's now at the point where he's completely built up and strong," manager Bo Porter said. "Every time this guy seems to get in trouble, it's almost like he stepped behind the rubber, rubbed the ball up and made quality pitch after quality pitch. He was outstanding."Before getting knocked around last month, Bedard was 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA in his previous five starts versus Oakland. He's had his way with Coco Crisp, holding him to one hit in 15 at-bats.Bedard will get his first look at Yoenis Cespedes, who's hitting .300 with two homers during a five-game hitting streak. The slugging outfielder, though, is 0 for 11 with five strikeouts against the Astros.A's shortstop Jed Lowrie sat out Wednesday with a bruised foot but is hoping to play Friday. He's 11 for 24 with two homers and eight RBIs versus his former team.