The American League leaders in road wins and home losses will go head-to-head Friday night when the Houston Astros visit the Oakland Athletics for the opener of a three-game series.
The set is a rematch of, not surprisingly, a three-game Astros sweep in Oakland bridging May and June, games Houston won 5-1, 3-1 and 5-4.
The Astros, who are 27-16 on the road, will be kicking off a six-game California swing after completing a 7-1 homestand. When last seen on the road, they were taking four of six in New York against the Yankees and Mets.
Yordan Alvarez contributed his 26th home run of the season to Thursday’s 5-2 home win over the Kansas City Royals.
Afterward Jose Altuve, who also homered, paid his teammate the ultimate compliment.
“He’s amazing … the best hitter I’ve ever played with,” Altuve said. “He’s doing big things for us. He’s an MVP-type of player.”
Right-hander Jose Urquidy (7-3, 4.15 ERA) will attempt to get the trip off to a successful start. He’s unbeaten in his last four starts, going 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA.
The 27-year-old has allowed one run in each of his last three outings, during which he’s given up a total of just seven hits in 19 innings.
Urquidy has never beaten the A’s in six starts, one of which was in the postseason.
He’s gone 0-2 with a 3.95 ERA in five regular-season meetings. Seth Brown and Tony Kemp homered off him in his last outing against the A’s, a 7-6 win on the final day of the 2021 regular season in which he did not get a decision.
Urquidy also faced the A’s in Game 3 of the 2020 American League Divisional Series. He was bombed for homers by Tommy La Stella, Mark Canha, Matt Olson and Marcus Semien — all former A’s — in a 9-7 defeat in which he posted a no-decision.
This time around, he will be facing an A’s team that’s on a bit of a roll. A club with just 10 home wins all season recorded its second home-series triumph earlier in the week when the A’s took two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Despite going 1-for-12 in his last four games after an eight-game hitting streak, second baseman Nick Allen was strong defensively for an Oakland team that had lost 11 of its previous 12 home games.
“I feel a lot more like myself. I’m getting into rhythm,” the 23-year-old rookie with 25 games of big-league experience noted. “It’s just baseball at the end of the day, and that’s what I’m starting to feel now. It’s the same game I’ve always played.”
Like his counterpart, the A’s scheduled starter for the series opener, right-hander Paul Blackburn (6-3, 2.90), has never beaten the Astros. He is coming off his sixth start this season in which he didn’t allow a run, limiting the Seattle Mariners to four hits in 6 1/3 innings in an eventual 2-1 loss last Saturday.
One of his losses this season came at the hands of the Astros, who got two home runs from Alvarez and another by Altuve in a 5-1 win at Oakland in May.
The 28-year-old has struggled against the Astros in his career, going 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA over five games, including four starts.
–Field Level Media