Butler extends hitting streak to nine games as A's shut out Astros
By Richard Dean and Jane Lee
HOUSTON -- A's designated hitter Billy Butler extended his hitting streak to nine games with an RBI double, highlighting a two-run sixth in support of starter Kendall Graveman, who provided 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a series-clinching 4-0 shutout of the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday.
In the A's five wins, they've outscored the opposition, 42-1.
"Winning back-to-back games, I don't know if we've done that, and that's always nice to do," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "But this is a good team right here. They haven't swung like they're capable of to this point in the season, but to an extent there's not much of a break in their lineup, either."
Butler, who launched a three-run homer in Monday's win, is the only Athletic to hit safely in each of the club's first nine games. He's batting .371 in that span for his new team. Only outfielder Sam Fuld, who hit a pair of doubles from the leadoff spot Tuesday night, sports a better average among A's regulars, at .375.
Astros starter Brad Peacock, activated from the disabled list in time for Tuesday's start, pitched five innings, allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Graveman, meanwhile, limited the Astros to just four hits in earning his first Major League win, and Oakland's bullpen combined for 3 2/3 shutout frames.
"Graveman is a big sinkerballer, and he was working off that," Astros catcher Jason Castro said. "They got guys that throw with pretty significant movement. We just got to anticipate a little and make sure we're seeing the ball in zones where we can handle it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bouncing back: Graveman, who was touched for eight runs (seven earned) in just 3 1/3 innings in his first Major League start last week, returned to form Tuesday in Houston, where he got through 5 1/3 scoreless innings, despite issuing four walks and allowing just as many hits. The right-hander struck out three on the night. More >
"I think we changed speeds better," said Graveman. "Even though I didn't throw the changeup for strikes as much as I wanted to, I think it was effective and it got people off-balance. I just challenged with the sinker. Little excited the first game and it wasn't sinking, and we get back out there today and get [nine] groundball outs in 5 1/3. That's my whole game."
Encouraging sign on mound: Peacock made it through 85 pitches (52 strikes) in his first start this season, following offseason hip surgery. That was encouraging to the Astros, who could not score when Peacock was pitching Tuesday. The right-hander had been rehabbing at Triple-A Fresno. More >
Double trouble: The A's, who entered the day with a Major League-leading 21 doubles, tacked on three to their season total in Tuesday's win, two of which led to a run. Fuld jump-started the game with a two-bagger and, after advancing to second on Mark Canha's groundout to the right side, scored on Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly. In the sixth, Butler doubled and came around to score on Stephen Vogt's base hit. Fuld also doubled in the third.
All about timing: Jason Castro reached base in his first two plate appearances, but in the sixth and eighth innings, the Houston catcher came up with runners on first and second both times and couldn't deliver the big hit. Castro, who walked in the second and singled in the fourth, hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the sixth and flied out to deep right to end the eighth. More >
"To watch that execution-style of baseball, that's us to a T. Nice to see that tonight." -- Vogt
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In the A's five wins, they've outscored the opposition, 42-1. The club's starters have allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of the first nine games for a 2.10 ERA.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch won a manager's challenge on an overturned call, resulting in an inning-ending double play in the top of the sixth inning.
Oakland's Vogt was initially ruled safe at second base. It was ruled that shortstop Jed Lowrie did not apply the tag in time on a sliding Vogt, following a throw from first baseman Chris Carter.
The replay official determined that Lowrie tagged Vogt on the right leg prior to the runner reaching second base, completing the double play.
WHAT'S NEXT Drew Pomeranz gets the start for the A's in the series finale, on Jackie Robinson Day. Last season, Pomeranz split time between the bullpen and starting rotation. In his start last Friday, Pomeranz tossed a career-high tying seven shutout innings in a 12-0 win over Seattle. He'll be opposed by the Astros' Collin McHugh, who was one of the feel-good stories for the club last season. In his fourth season in the Majors, McHugh has a career 12-17 record but he has won his last eight decisions.