Baseball / Sports

The Houston Astros' Jose Altuve (27) slides safely at home as Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris (36) waits for the throw in the third inning at Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group/MCT)

Hoes' homer lifts Astros over A's

OAKLAND, Calif.--As good as the Oakland A's have been, gaining ground on the Los Angeles Angels has proved to be quite problematic for them for nearly two weeks now.

Oakland hasn't picked up a full game on the Angels since July 8, when they upped their American League West lead to 41/2 games after a win over the Giants. Since then, L.A. has been hovering at 11/2 games behind before a loss on the A's off day Monday made it a two-game deficit.

The A's had a great opportunity to make it three Tuesday night after the Angels suffered a 4-2 home loss to Baltimore, but Houston's L.J. Hoes spoiled the chance to widen the gap. Hoes' 12th inning solo homer off Fernando Abad gave the Astros a rare 3-2 win at the Coliseum before 22,908.

It was a missed chance for Oakland, but the A's will have more opportunities coming on the horizon. The opening game against the Astros marked a stretch where Oakland plays 20 straight games against teams with sub-.500 records while the Angels must contend with the Orioles, the Detroit Tigers, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the rejuvenated Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox over the same stretch.

Scott Kazmir certainly did his part for the A's once again, allowing just one earned run over his seven innings, walking one and striking out six. He wound up with a no-decision on this night, however, as the ever-improving Astros team simply wouldn't got away. Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle, Dan Otero and Abad kept it at 2-2 through the 11th, but Hoes, who came into the game hitting just .176, launched his third homer over the left field wall against Abad (2-4) with one out in the 12th.

Houston, which has only won four times at the Coliseum ever against 13 losses, was persistent on this night. In fact, the Astros struck first with two runs in the third inning against Kazmir and rode those two runs until Hoes delivered the game-winner. After No. 9 hitter Marwin Gonzalez opened the inning with a single to right, major league hits leader Jose Altuve hit a one-hop shot off of the A's pitcher, and the runners moved up to second and third on a Josh Donaldson throwing error.

Kazmir limped around the mound after getting nailed with the comebacker, but after electing to continue, he subsequently gave up a two-run single to center to former Athletics prospect Chris Carter.

But that turned out to be the Astros' last hurrah against the A's ace left-hander. After getting a double play to end the third-inning rally, Kazmir would allow just two singles from the fourth to the seventh, a two-out grounder through the left side by Robbie Grossman in the fourth and then a bloop one-out hit to right by Grossman in the seventh.

The A's had plenty of opportunities to break it open against Houston starter Brett Oberholtzer, but the Astros' starter ultimately proved just as stingy. Oakland had runners at first and second in the bottom of the first but couldn't score, then had runners at first and third in the second inning with nobody out but couldn't break through.

In the bottom of the third, however, Craig Gentry opened with a single and stole second. Following a Yoenis Cespedes walk, Gentry took a walking lead and stole third standing up, his 18th steal in 19 attempts this season. A Donaldson fielder's choice grounder to shortstop scored Gentry, but Derek Norris hit one back to Olberholtzer, who converted it into an inning-ending double play.

The A's finally tied the score 2-2 in the sixth. With one out, Donaldson narrowly missed his 22nd homer but settled for double just below the home run line in left field. A Norris single to left moved him to third, and Lowrie hit a sacrifice fly to right that scored Donaldson easily.

Oberholtzer wound up matching Kazmir with seven innings pitched. He allowed six hits and both runs against him were earned. He walked two and didn't strike out a batter. Darin Downs (2-1) got the win by getting the last out of the 11th and Chad Qualls pitched a scoreless bottom of the 12th for his 11th save.

Melvin spoke to disgruntled pitcher Tommy Milone by phone Monday and said that left-hander hadn't softened his stance about wanting to be traded if Oakland can't find a spot for him on the major league roster.

"I don't think there's any softening to it," Melvin said. "I think he just wants to pitch in the big leagues. He'd much rather do it (with Oakland), but when you've had the type of success he's had and you're pitching in the minor leagues, that's not somewhere he wants to be." Melvin expressed empathy for Milone, who is with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats playing in El Paso, Texas.

"He's looking out for his big league career and he's pitched really well for us," he said. "You don't blame him for wanting to be in the big leagues. It doesn't mean he doesn't want to be here.

--Josh Reddick was activated from the disabled list, and even though he wasn't in the lineup, Melvin said the outfielder would get plenty of playing time in the coming days as the A's face eight straight right-handed starters.

Reddick said he will wear a brace on his right knee for the rest of the season.

"It's very uncomfortable, but as the game goes on, you get used to it," he said. "But it doesn't restrict me in any way possible. It's definitely not going to slow me down."--The A's and the City of Oakland officially agreed on a 10-year lease agreement. The lease still must be voted on by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors June 29, but that is considered a formality.

(c)2014 Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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