OAKLAND -- Sonny Gray baffled the Astros' lineup over seven shutout innings, and Mark Canha hit a three-run homer in the fifth, to guide Oakland to a 4-0 win over Houston on Tuesday night at the Coliseum.
Gray loaded the bases in the second inning and allowed two Astros to reach base in the fifth and seventh, but was able to work out of all three jams. The right-hander allowed five hits and two walks while striking out four.
"You've got to tip your hat to Sonny," Astros catcher Hank Conger said.
Scott Kazmir, who faced his former team for the first time since the Trade Deadline, surrendered all four runs via the homer. The Athletics' Billy Burns went deep in the third inning off Kazmir, who allowed seven hits and two walks. The Astros' lead in the AL West fell to one game over Texas, which topped Seattle.
"It's always frustrating losing a game, especially at a time like this where you really need to take care of business," Kazmir said. "You have to stay positive, trust what's gotten us here this entire year, and we'll be just fine."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
It's always Sonny: With seven scoreless innings in his pocket, Gray jumped ahead of Houston's Dallas Keuchel to regain the American League ERA crown with a 2.28 mark, to Keuchel's 2.29. The right-hander navigated traffic with ease, stranding seven base runners in his time on the mound, and exited the 101-pitch outing with his team-leading 13th victory. It was the 16th time this season Gray has completed at least seven innings. More >
Leaving 'em loaded:Carlos Gomez doubled to lead off the second inning and Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena followed with one-out walks. But the Astros squandered their best chance to score against Gray as Conger struck out swinging on three pitches and Jake Marisnick popped out to end the rally.
"We had, I think it was, three innings with runners on base, and coming into the game, we know the opportunities against Gray are going to be few and far between," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Certainly, the opportunity early that he pitched out of was a big one."
Homer happy: Burns, who tallied just two home runs across five Minor League seasons, drilled his fourth homer of the year to center field to lead off the third inning. Fellow rookie Canha launched his 14th of the season to left field in the fifth, a three-run shot that afforded the A's some breathing room. For Canha, it was his second home run in as many days and sixth in his last 20 games.
"You don't expect Billy to hit a ball that far, especially when he's into the count that far, but it was flying a bit tonight with it being a bit warm out there, but still, he squared it up," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's surprised us a few times this year, and again that time."
"These guys are the best in the league for a reason. Pitchers like him, pitchers like we saw -- [Zack Greinke], [Clayton Kershaw], [Madison Bumgarner], we see Keuchel do it every five days. You've got to earn your keep against these guys and find ways to scratch runs across. At the same time, he's going to break out his best stuff when his back is against the wall." -- Hinch on facing tough pitchers like Gray.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Houston turns to right-hander Collin McHugh as the Astros look to take the series finale beginning Wednesday at 9:05 p.m. CT. McHugh, going for his 16th win, is 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA in his career against Oakland and 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA against the A's this season.
A's: Right-hander Aaron Brooks, who has a 8.64 ERA in two starts since his return from Triple-A Nashville, gets the ball for Wednesday's 7:05 p.m. PT series finale against the Astros at the Coliseum. Brooks took a no-decision in his only career start against Houston, allowing one run in seven innings on Aug. 6.