Peña homers in return to Astros lineup, Houston beats struggling Athletics
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Astros’ shortstop Jeremy Peña hit a two-run home run in his first at-bat since getting a planned day off, backing another solid outing from Framber Valdez as Houston sent the Oakland Athletics to their 10th consecutive loss with a 6-3 win Saturday.
Alex Bregman had three hits and three RBI for Houston, which has won 13 of 16.
The Astros (30-21) are a season-high nine games over .500 after opening the season 3-6.
“We’ve known we had a great team from the jump,” Peña said. “It’s just the flows of the season. We know that. Now it’s just a matter of showing up and doing that every day.”
The victory was the 2,123rd of Astros manager Dusty Baker’s career, two shy of Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy for eighth on the all-time list.
Valdez, who six days earlier pitched his second career shutout against the A’s, was almost as dominant this time, too, despite three walks.
The 2022 All-Star allowed one run and four hits in six innings with five strikeouts to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season.
“They definitely made some adjustments but the key for me was just trying to throw the same game I’ve thrown, just trying to attack the strike zone and throw my pitches,” Valdez said through a translator. “
Four Astros relievers combined to two-hit the A’s over the final three innings. Ryan Pressly retired three hitters for his 10th save.
The A’s, off to a historically bad start at 10-44, are on pace for 132 losses – two shy of the major league record held by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
Oakland was managed by bench coach Darren Bush while Mark Kotsay attended his daughter’s high school graduation.
The A's scored twice in the eighth on Shea Langeliers’ two-out single off Hector Neris to pull within 6-3 before Tony Kemp grounded out.
“We were hitting the ball hard. We didn’t get any love where they were falling in but we hit the ball hard,” Bush said. “We put together better at-bats against (Valdez) this time than we did last time, which is good.”
Peña, who had been in a 3-for-24 slump before the day off Friday, hit his seventh homer on the third pitch of the game and the first he saw from A’s opener Austin Pruitt (1-2). Jose Altuve, who singled leading off the game, scored.
Peña doubled off the wall in left in the eighth and scored on Bregman’s three-run double.
“You always want to be out there but it’s for my best interests,” Peña said of his day off. “It’s a long season. Dusty knows that and does a great time managing our health and energy.”
Valdez (5-4) also made a terrific defensive play after the A’s loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth.
Oakland’s Seth Brown hit a sharp grounder that first baseman José Abreu bobbled into foul territory. Abreu chased the ball then flipped it backward to Valdez, who was covering first.
The play saved at least one run and could have swung momentum in the A’s favor had it not been for Valdez’s hustle.
“We’re all proud of him how he fielded his position covering first ,” Baker said. “That was a real big play.”
Athletics: RHP Adrián Martínez was optioned to Las Vegas to make room for reliever Hogan Harris. Martinez had a 2.84 ERA in five outings since coming off from the Injured List on May 15.
Astros’ RHP Cristian Javier (5-1, 3.07 ERA) makes his 12th career appearance against the A’s in Sunday’s season-finale. Javier has faced only one team, Texas, more. RHP Luis Medina (0-3, 6.45), winless in three starts since being called up from the minors May 11, goes for Oakland.
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