Houston is back on top

Astros take control of division with series win over A's

The Astros took two of three in Oakland to get back on top of the AL West. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an impressive win to even the series on Wednesday night, the Astros forced a winner-take-all finale for not only the victory of the three-game set but for sole possession of first place in the AL West. They would accomplish their mission, taking two of three in Oakland to continue their recent success.

Final Score: Astros 8, A's 4

Astros' Record: 26-18, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia (2-3)

Losing Pitcher: Cole Irvin (3-5)

Houston builds up a lead behind Garcia

Unlike recent games where Houston scored first to take an early lead, Mark Canha started the scoring Thursday afternoon with a solo home run off of Luis Garcia to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Oakland held that 1-0 lead until the top of the third when the Astros would put together a three-run inning on four hits, including an RBI double by Martin Maldonado and back-to-back RBI singles by Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman. That made it a two-run lead for Houston at 3-1.

Former Astro Tony Kemp got one of those runs back to lead off the bottom of the inning, launching Oakland's second solo homer of the day, making it 3-2. Maldonado would make it back-to-back RBI at-bats in the top of the fourth, though, hitting a two-run homer to extend the lead to three runs. Garcia limited Oakland to those two solo homers over his five innings of work, allowing just one more hit in the third through fifth. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

Astros win the series and move into first in the AL West

Brooks Raley took over out of the bullpen in the top of the sixth, getting through the inning but allowing a run on two hits to cut the lead to two runs. Bregman notched another RBI in the next inning to get it right back, a double to make it 6-3. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, erasing a leadoff double for a scoreless bottom of the seventh. Ryne Stanek had the bottom of the eighth but put himself into a jam by hitting and walking a batter to start things off. After back-to-back strikeouts, he would issue another walk to load the bases, prompting Dusty Baker to bring in closer Ryan Pressly for a potential four-out save.

He would strand all three runners to get out of the jam, then a costly error by Oakland would extend the top of the ninth where Houston would add on two runs to make it a five-run game at 8-3. No longer a save situation, Pressly would stay in the dugout while Andre Scrubb would come in to finish things off, despite allowing a solo home run in the inning. The victory gave the Astros the series win and moved them a half-game ahead of Oakland to take over first place in the AL West.

Up Next: The Astros will travel back to Texas, heading to Arlington to take on the Rangers at Globe Life Field, starting a three-game set Friday at 7:05 PM Central. Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.32 ERA) will be on the mound for the Rangers, while the Astros will be bringing up Tyler Ivey to make his MLB debut.

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