Jose Altuve sparks Houston Astros past Oakland Athletics

By Rick Eymer, The Sports Xchange  |  May 2, 2016 at 12:54 AM
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jose Altuve jump-started the offense and Doug Fister and the defense took care of the rest. The result is a happy flight home.

Fister took a shutout into the seventh, Altuve hit a home run and the Houston Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 after losing five of six.

"We see the light for us as a team," Fister said. "We're doing the little things and guys are playing hard. There's great communication between me and Jason Castro. It was a productive day and gets us on track to get back home and a happy flight."

The A's can't feel too bad after taking the first two games of the series. They got a solid effort from Rich Hill and were threatening to rally late in the game.

"If we swung the bats better, a lot of times that's enough," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We had some opportunities if someone gets a big hit."

Colby Rasmus also drove in a run for the Astros, who head home with another chance to put together their first winning streak of the season.

Marcus Semien drove in a run for the A's, who had their four-game home winning streak come to an end.

Fister (2-3) lasted a season-best 6 2/3 innings, giving up the one run on seven hits. He walked one and struck out five in ending a personal three-game losing streak to the A's.

"Without a doubt that was his best stuff, best aggressiveness, strike-throwing," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think he got a little tired at the end but all in all a solid outing on a day we really needed it."

Fister delivered his third consecutive quality start, although the Astros lost his previous three starts.

Hill (3-3) worked around four walks to keep the game close. He gave up two runs on two hits, striking out four.

"They just did a good job in the third inning," Hill said. "My curveball wasn't hitting early on and it came back. But by that time they had already done their job. Doug pitched a great game. He got ahead and stayed ahead."

Tony Sipp came on in the seventh with two on and two out, getting Jed Lowrie on a flyball for the final out. He also got the first out of the eighth before giving way to Will Harris.

Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

"Sipp gets two big outs, Harris comes in and Gregerson with a calm ninth," Hinch said. "Harris has been terrific. I don't want to say he's the eighth-inning only. We may need him to troubleshoot in the sixth or seventh."

Altuve gave the Astros an early lead, drilling a 1-1 delivery from Hill off the facade of the left field bleachers for his fourth leadoff homer of the year and eight of his career. Altuve has Craig Biggio's club record of eight in a season (2001) clearly in his sights.

"I thought I threw a pretty good curveball," Hill said. "It was probably too much of a strike but he did his job putting the bat on the ball and came out on top."

Rasmus' sacrifice fly, which was a few feet from being a grand slam, plated Castro in the third, putting the Astros ahead, 2-0.

Hill walked three batters in the third and was able to get out of it with the one run when Tyler White popped out to third base with the bases loaded.

Fister escaped a jam in the second with a little help from his infield. Khris Davis and Coco Crisp each singled around a popup from Stephen Vogt, but Fister struck out Chris Coghlan. Yonder Alfonso walked to load the series, but Carlos Correa made a nice play up the middle to get a forceout and end the inning.

The A's also wasted Lowrie's one-out double in the third as Fister got a groundout and strikeout to end it.

Coghlan and Alfonso each had one-out singles ahead of Semien's RBI single. Billy Burns hit into a force play before Sipp came on to get Lowrie.

NOTES: INF Danny Valencia (hamstring) will begin a rehab assignment on Monday with the idea of joining the A's when they head to Baltimore to open a series on Friday. ... Astros OF Carlos Gomez (sore left ribcage) hopes to avoid the disabled list. He will be reevaluated Monday when the team returns to Houston. ... Oakland RHP Henderson Alvarez threw 48 pitches in four innings Saturday for Class A Stockton. He is expected to go five innings and throw 75 pitches in his next start. ... RHPs Chris Devenski and Scott Feldman pitched well enough Saturday to warrant a discussion among the Houston brass to determine the starting rotation beyond the Minnesota series. ... A's LHP Marc Rzepcynski has stranded his first 10 inherited runners, most in the AL among relievers who have not allowed an inherited runner to score. ... Astros RHP Lance McCullers (right shoulder soreness) is scheduled to throw four innings in extended spring training on Monday. He threw three innings on Wednesday.

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