OAKLAND -- The Oakland Athletics have been given an opportunity. They get to play the Houston Astros 19 times this season. That will undoubtedly increase their chances at a wild card spot, but all of their division rivals also get the same amount of games against Houston.
Making the most of these games will be paramount. The A's swept the Astros with a 7-5 win in Oakland on Wednesday and have now won all six of their games against the newest addition to the American League West.
"It doesn't matter what team it is," A's shortstop Jed Lowrie said. "They are in a rebuilding phase so we came in and took care of business. That's what it takes. You've got to beat the people you are supposed to beat."
With the A's win on Wednesday, the A's have now won 11 consecutive games against the A.L. West. That's two shy of their best all-time stretch against division opponents. It has been enough to keep them in first place for eight consecutive days.
The A's jumped all over the Astros starting pitchers in this series. The A's hitters drove in six runs, sent 11 batters to the plate, and knocked Astros Opening Day starter Bud Norris out of the game with two outs in the first inning. Astros starters went 0-3 with 15 runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings in Oakland.
"The mindset is to be aggressive at the plate, but also get your pitch to hit and if it's not there pass the baton to the next guy," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Melvin's strategy worked. Of the team's seven runs, six different guys were directly responsible. Josh Reddick delivered the biggest blow with a two-run line-drive double in the first inning.
Former Astro and birthday boy, Lowrie, went 2 for 3 with an RBI, a run, and a walk on Wednesday. He is hitting .458 with six runs, two home runs, eight RBI and four walks against his former team this season. His last three starts have been as the A's cleanup hitter.
"He won't go in saying 'alright, now I've got to be a fourth hitter' he just does his thing," Melvin said. "It really doesn't matter where he hits in this lineup, the flexibility he gives us allows us to do things like this when a guy like (Yoenis) Cespedes is out."
Lowrie sees himself as a two-hitter, but admitted he doesn't mind "moonlighting" elsewhere in the lineup. As long as he keeps hitting, and stays healthy he will have a spot somewhere.
The A's offensive output made Bartolo Colon's job easier. He allowed a run in the first and then cruised through his remaining innings. The veteran pitcher built up his velocity as the game went on and was hitting 94 on the radar gun in the later innings. He lasted six innings and got the win.
"He settled in and got back to the Bartolo we always know," A's catcher Derek Norris said. "Throwing strikes and getting a lot of ground balls and early outs."
Colon hasn't allowed a walk in any of his three starts.
After feasting on a tender Astros team, the A's lead the A.L. with 12 wins and will head east to face the Rays and Red Sox after a day off. First baseman Brandon Moss, who missed the last two days after welcoming in a new addition to the family, is expected to be in the lineup on Friday. That means Shane Peterson, who made his Major League debut on Tuesday, will be heading back to Triple-A Sacramento.
Peterson made a game-changing catch in his first game, he collected his first career hit, run, and RBI in his second start.
"We saw him at first for the first time, he made a great play again today," Melvin said. "He faced numerous left handers here and had great at-bats against them. This kid is ready to play in the big leagues, it's just not his time yet."
Peterson's parents were in attendance to see it all. His first taste of the big leagues was a successful one. He will probably be back at some point soon.
Now that the A's have sufficiently beaten a team they are supposed to beat, they will have a more formidable challenge waiting for them on the road.
--- Catcher Derek Norris took a foul ball off the jaw in the seventh inning. He was removed from the game for precautionary reasons and x-rays were negative. Since both he and John Jaso were in the lineup, the A's lost their DH spot when they took Norris out of the game. Had the A's gone to extra innings, the pitcher spot might have come up in the lineup.
--- The A's played their first ever game at the Oakland Coliseum 45 years ago today. The new Oakland team lost to Baltimore 4-1.