On the verge of another light-hitting defeat, the Oakland Athletics put together a ninth-inning rally that has them feeling confident about finishing strong down the stretch.
Following a dramatic home victory, the A's are hoping to get their offense on track Sunday against the Houston Astros as they try to win back-to-back games for only the second time in nearly a month.Oakland (80-61) had the best record in the majors on Aug. 9 before dropping 17 of 24 heading into Saturday.Much of the team's recent trouble has been at the plate, where it averaged 2.4 runs and hit .198 during a 1-7 stretch before managing just one run and five hits through eight innings Saturday.The AL wild card leaders, however, came through with a four-hit, three-run ninth to snap a three-game skid with a much-needed 4-3 victory. Josh Reddick hit a two-run double off closer Chad Qualls before Jed Lowrie delivered a walk-off single that ended the Astros' five-game winning streak."We were looking a spark," Lowrie said. "I think that's the type of play that can start something big."Now the A's will try to build on the late-game outburst as Jason Hammel (2-5, 4.98 ERA) looks to continue his positive stretch on the mound following a rough start upon his arrival in early July.Since posting a 9.53 ERA while dropping his first four starts, the right-hander has gone 2-1 with a 2.40 mark in his last five. He allowed one run and three hits over a season-high eight innings in Monday's 6-1 home win over Seattle.Hammel allowed eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in a 8-1 loss at Houston on July 30. He then gave up one run over seven against the Astros on Aug. 26, but did not factor in the decision when the bullpen blew his one-run lead in a 4-2 road defeat.Hammel will have to be cautious with Chris Carter, who reached base for the 14th straight contest against his former club Saturday with a single and two walks. He's hitting .342 with six homers and 16 RBIs in his last 10 meetings."I'm trying to hit the ball hard," said Carter, second in the AL with 36 homers. "I'm taking the same approach every time."All-Star Jose Altuve, hitting a MLB-best .341, extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games. He also has a .362 average over a 22-game run against the A's.The Astros (62-80), coming off their first loss in four games under interim manager Tom Lawless, hope to avoid their seventh defeat in nine contests at the Coliseum this year.Dallas Keuchel (10-9, 3.03) seeks his first win since beating Oakland at Minute Maid Park on July 30. He's allowed three runs or less while going at least seven innings in five of his last six starts, but has only received eight runs from the offense.Keuchel is 1-0 with a 2.01 ERA versus Oakland in three 2014 starts -- all Houston victories. He also opposed Hammel in his last two, giving up one run in a complete-game win in July and allowing one earned run over seven in August.Reddick, Alberto Callaspo and Craig Gentry are a combined 3 for 36 all-time when facing Keuchel, but recent call-up Nate Freiman is 6 for 11 with a home run and three doubles in the matchup.