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A’s turn to Cole Irvin in effort to take series against Astros

Jun 24, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Cole Irvin (19) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics will get a chance to record just their second winning homestand of the season when they look to take the rubber game of a three-game series against the Houston Astros on Sunday.

The teams split the first two games of the series, with Oakland winning 3-2 on Saturday after Houston took the opener 8-3 on Friday.

Having opened the six-game homestand by taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays, the A’s would go 4-2 with a win Sunday, enabling them to better the 4-3 mark they posted on their first homestand of the season against the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.

Catcher Sean Murphy was the hero of an unusual A’s win Saturday, turning a potential rally-busting topper in front of the plate into the start of a three-run surge in the fourth.

Murphy alertly slid around rival catcher Martin Maldonado’s swipe tag at the plate, scoring Oakland’s first run and triggering a four-pitch implosion in which the defensive-minded Maldonado had a passed ball and Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez threw a wild pitch.

Afterward, Murphy gave most of the credit to the Oakland bullpen, which relieved emergency starter Zach Logue with four shutout innings.

“We trust those guys completely,” Murphy said of A.J. Puk, Domingo Acevedo, Zach Jackson, Sam Moll and Lou Trivino. “To go four scoreless through that lineup is a tall task, and they did it efficiently.”

Even with the win, the A’s have the worst home record in the majors at 11-30. They’ve gone 0-6, 2-5, 1-9 and 1-6 on their last four homestands.

The 1-9 run included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Astros. Left-hander Cole Irvin (3-6, 3.35 ERA), Sunday’s scheduled starter, pitched one of those games, leaving a 1-0 game in the sixth inning in what turned out to be a 5-4 defeat.

Irvin has never beaten the Astros in his career, going 0-3 with a 6.15 ERA in five starts. Yordan Alvarez has done a lot of the damage, going 6-for-12 with a double and a home run.

Alvarez has not been at his best in the first two games of the series after hearing that he had lost out to Shohei Ohtani in fan balloting to be the American League’s starting designated hitter in the July 19 All-Star Game. He’s gone just 1-for-8 with four strikeouts.

Better days are ahead, Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve said.

“I’m 100 percent sure he’s going to be in there,” he said of Alvarez making the All-Star team as a reserve. “He didn’t make the starters’ roster, but in the end, what matters is to be there, to enjoy the two days, and hopefully he gets to play and hit some homers.”

Houston’s scheduled starter in the series finale, right-hander Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 4.04), hasn’t had much success against the A’s, either. The 32-year-old will make his 11th career start against Oakland, having gone just 1-4 with a 4.05 ERA in the previous 10 starts.

He went 0-0 in two starts against the A’s last season, lasting just 8 2/3 innings while serving up 11 hits.

–Field Level Media