Programming note: Astros-A’s coverage kicks off tonight at 6:30 p.m. with A’s Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
OAKLAND – Brandon Moss is back at first base Friday night against the Houston Astros, and the slugger is getting a rare start against a left-hander.
Moss has made 69 of his last 71 starts against right-handed pitchers. But it’s not too surprising to see him in the lineup considering he’s been a driving force behind the A’s recent power surge. Moss’ 10 homers since the All-Star break are tied for fifth in the American League.
He has just one career at-bat against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, Friday’s starter, but it’s worth noting that Keuchel has allowed a .281 career batting average to lefties in 196 at-bats.
“Our front office does a good job monitoring and evaluating certain pitchers and when we’ll have an extra lefty in the lineup,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “A lot of it has to do with how Brandon is swinging. He is swinging it awfully well, and he was (A.L.) Player of the Week last week. He had some decent at-bats against left-handers too.”
Moss is hitting just .200 against lefties for the season and has struck out in 33 of his 70 at-bats against them.
But he’s hit .296 overall since the All-Star break with just 30 strikeouts in 41 games, compared to the .228 he hit before the All-Star break with 93 strikeouts in 87 games.
Moss is back at first base after making his past nine starts in right field in place of the injured Josh Reddick. Chris Young is playing right field Friday.
The A’s didn’t shine defensively in Thursday’s 3-2 loss, but rookie pitcher Sonny Gray made a terrific play, making a bare-hand grab of Jonathan Villar’s soft tapper and making the throw to first to get him. It was a near carbon-copy of a play Gray made in his previous start, when he wheeled and made an off-balance throw to first to get an out.
“He’s a very good athlete, he bounces off the mound,” Melvin said. “ … I haven’t seen him swing a bat. I bet he could even swing a bat. Good athletes are good athletes, and he’s definitely one of those.”
Derek Norris draws his first start behind the plate since coming off the disabled list Thursday. With a day game following a night game Saturday, Melvin said Kurt Suzuki is likely to be in the lineup against Houston left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.