The Oakland Athletics have won three straight series, but the recent success hasn't been quite as sustained as other parts of the season that have led them to the best record in baseball.
After taking the final two games of a three-game series in Texas, the A's now could be in line for a more noteworthy run as they begin a three-game set with the struggling Houston Astros on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.The A's (65-39) have won seven of 10 in the season series with an average of 7.20 runs scored and a .304 batting average. They've also won 22 of 29 against the Astros since the AL West was realigned a season ago.They beat the Rangers 9-3 on Sunday behind Josh Reddick's three hits while John Jaso, Stephen Vogt and Yoenis Cespedes each went 2 for 5.Cespedes drove in a pair of runs and has nine RBIs in four games to go with an eight-game hitting streak, Vogt is batting .400 over his last eight and Jaso has hit safely in all 15 games in the leadoff spot. He could stay there if center fielder Coco Crisp remains out with a sore neck, but he's not picky about where his at-bats come from."I like (leadoff) because I'm in the lineup," Jaso said. "I don't care where."Crisp sat for the second time in three games, and Alberto Callaspo was activated from the 15-day disabled list but was also held out of the lineup.Houston (42-63) has dropped five straight and eight of 10 after Sunday's 4-2 loss to Miami. The Astros have been horrendous at home lately, going 1-8 with 19 runs scored and a .204 average since June 30.Jose Altuve remains a consistent offensive threat after going 3 for 4 with a home run in the finale against the Marlins. He's batting .429 over a nine-game hitting streak and leads the majors with a .344 average and 148 hits.But Houston has stalled behind him."Right now, we're just not getting the big hit," manager Bo Porter said. "Altuve continues to swing the bat well, but we need some other guys to get it going."Jesse Chavez will attempt to further Porter's frustrations.Chavez (8-6, 3.14 ERA) took a no-hitter into the fifth inning of Wednesday's 9-7 win over Houston but again let his pitch count limit him after allowing two runs and four hits with seven strikeouts and 101 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. He's thrown at least 101 pitches in his last four starts while making it through six innings once.Nevertheless, he earned the win to improve to 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA in three starts against the Astros this season.Houston counters with Brett Oberholtzer, who has not received a decision in his last two starts despite a 2.70 ERA. He limited the A's to two runs and six hits in seven innings Tuesday in a 3-2 victory.Oberholtzer (2-7, 4.32) is winless in four starts, but his balancing of the big league club and Triple-A could be over if he continues to show consistency."Obie's impressed each and every time we brought him back," Porter told MLB's official website. "It's not an easy situation to be in, to be the roller-coaster guy going up and being sent down and coming back up."Oberholtzer is 0-2 with a 4.03 ERA and .305 opponent average in four starts against Oakland. Josh Donaldson has done the most damage, going 5 for 10 with a home run and three doubles. Cespedes is 4 for 10 with a homer and a double.No left-handed Houston starter has ever beaten Oakland in 35 all-time meetings.