Dan Straily (8-7, 4.38 ERA) gets the nod as the Oakland A’s (81-60, .574) look to take game three of the series against the Houston Astros, and to build upon their half game lead in the AL West.
The second-year pitcher has won each of his last two starts, and on both occasions Kurt Suzuki was behind the plate. The veteran catcher once again gets the start with the Straily on the mound.
“He’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now,” said manager Bob Melvin. “His numbers here recently are as good as anybody in baseball. Every time he goes out there, we feel like we have a great chance to win, and that’s a nice comfort level to have for a team to have when they take the field.”
The Astros send out left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (4-1, 2.79 ERA). The Houston rookie has made just six starts in his career, and never faced the A’s. In his last outing, though, the lefty tossed a four-hit shutout as he struck out five.
“He’s got good numbers,” said Melvin. “He mixes his pitches. It looks like he’s got a pretty good breaking ball. He really has the ability to get both lefties and righties out, and to this point in his big league career he’s been very good for them.”
After going 2-for-4 last night, Nate Freiman is now hitting .423 in his career off the team for which he briefly played for during spring training. The tall first baseman, who gets the start and bats fifth against the lefty, also has three of his four home runs off Houston.
Derek Norris, who just returned from the DL, gets the start at DH for the first time this season, and just the third time in his career. Since July 1, the second-year player is hitting .345 with five of his eight home runs. On having two catchers in the game, Melvin said: “The way Derek’s been swinging against lefties, it makes sense.”
Table-setter Coco Crisp misses out, with Melvin noting: “This day was on the docket for him. It’s difficult to do.” The manager explained that he doesn’t like to lose his leadoff man, who has cracked eight home runs in his last 16 games, but that the team feels it’s necessary to rest with his extensive injury history and aggressive style of play.
Melvin said of the recent struggles of Grant Balfour, who has allowed at least one run in four of his last six outings:
“Maybe trying to overthrow his fastball a little bit. Granted his stuff may not have been as crisp as we’ve seen earlier in the year, but there are going to be periods of time where guys struggle a little bit. It’s not just the closer, it can be anybody. I think it’s more magnified when it is the closer because he’s the last line of defense. You have to stay confident with those guys, and sometimes you have to let them fail.”
Melvin added that removing a reliever from his role too quickly can actually cause more harm than good. “If you’re too quick to do that, it shows you don’t have confidence in them.”
Melvin confirmed that the ninth still belongs to Balfour: “I mean he’s only got two blown saves this year. How many big league closers can say that?
Lowrie SS, Young CF, Donaldson 3B, Cespedes LF, Freiman 1B, Callaspo 2B, Norris DH Choice RF, Suzuki C
Villar SS, Altuve 2B, Crowe RF, Castro DH, Dominguez 3B, Carter LF, Wallace 1B, Pagnozzi C, Barnes CF