OAKLAND -- The A's used a five-run fourth to back a strong seven-inning performance from right-hander Kendall Graveman in a 7-4 series-opening victory against the Astros at the Coliseum on Monday night.
Yonder Alonso's two-run, go-ahead single with two outs sparked the big inning, which saw Astros starter Mike Fiers depart two batters later. Fiers was responsible for six runs on five hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings, striking out five in the loss.
"Two outs and two strikes and I think they sent eight hitters to the plate after that and we got beat by a big inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's frustrating because we had four or five walks in that inning. They kept putting up quality at-bats, we couldn't close the inning out and then they separated from us. It was tough to get back into it."
Graveman improved to 5-0 in his last nine starts, after allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits -- including a solo home run by Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth -- and one walk with five strikeouts while throwing a career-high 112 pitches. A's left fielder Khris Davis collected his team-leading 23rd home run in the seventh.
"I've got confidence in the sinker," Graveman said. "I think everybody can tell, 'He's going to throw the sinker. He's going to throw it both sides of the plate,' and confidence in it means that I'm locating it better. I think that's been the biggest key right now. I'm locating the sinker, it has a little bit more velocity and still has good movement. I think that really has been able to get me deep in ballgames."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Alonso stays hot: Twice, Alonso delivered a key hit with two outs, finishing 2-for-4 to up his batting average to .322 over his last 38 games, after hitting just .210 in his first 52 games of American League play. Alonso came through with a game-tying double in the second inning before opening the floodgates in the fourth by way of a base hit that plated the first two runs of the eventful frame.
"He's swinging great," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "When you see him using the whole field, driving the ball to left-center field, that means he's tracking the ball really well." More »
Tempers flare in Astros dugout: Fiers was one strike away from a 1-2-3 fourth inning when he allowed the next five batters to reach, prompting Hinch to pull him. Fiers said something to Hinch on the mound, and they later exchanged words in the dugout. Center fielder Carlos Gomez and Fiers had to be separated by pitcher Doug Fister at the half-inning before Fiers and Hinch spent several minutes talking in the dugout. All five batters who reached against Fiers scored as the A's took a 6-2 lead.
"They were battling and I needed to get it done and I needed to make that pitch and get out of that inning," Fiers said. "It just kept extending and extending, and by the time I knew what was going on, I was out of there. Just a really meltdown of an inning for me, and I need to be better for this team." More »
Healy atones for error: A's third baseman Ryon Healy was charged with a throwing error in the fourth inning that led to an unearned run, but the rookie made up for it in the seventh by making an excellent diving play on a sharp ground ball from Gonzalez to help Graveman complete the inning and potentially save a run.
"He really looks comfortable at a position that he has not played all that long," Melvin said. "He looks like a fighter, whether it's his at-bats or whether it's going after ground balls. He isn't afraid to go into the hole between short and third and try to get a ball. Few games in, looks like he's got some tenacity to him."
"I just touch the ball and it goes. All I have to do is get ready on time and touch it." -- Davis
Hinch won a challenge in the second inning, saving third baseman Luis Valbuena an error. Valbuena threw wide of first on a grounder hit by Davis, but replay showed first baseman Gonzalez made a swipe tag.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Left-hander Dallas Keuchel gets the start for the Astros in Tuesday's 9:05 p.m. CT game against the A's at the Coliseum. He went 3-0 with a 2.78 ERA in his last five starts before the All-Star break, with a 1.18 WHIP. The Astros won all five of those starts.
A's: Left-hander Dillon Overton will be added to the active roster for a spot start against the Astros at the Coliseum on Tuesday, with first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. PT. Overton was 1-1 with an 11.42 ERA in two starts in his first big league stint last month.