Late Rally Stuns Astros
Oakland Wins Series, Pulls Within Eight

A's Have Martini With Lunch
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
Houston built an early 4-0 lead on Thursday before Oakland produced a pair of three-run rallies to take a 6-4 decision at Minute Maid to take the four-game series and move within eight of the first-place Astros, seven games out in the loss column.

Alex Bregman and Tony Kemp produced the Houston runs, Kemp on his third homer of the season. The rest of the lineup against a cobbled Athletics staff? Three hits and four walks.

Charlie Morton didn't even last five innings as he gave up three runs in the fifth that drew the A's to within a run then Chris Devenski had the meltdown in the eighth which gave Oakland the lead to stay.

It's as if kicking Ken Giles to the minors just spread the virus to the rest of the bullpen. They seem, with few exceptions, to have lost their effectiveness.

Remember when Evan Gattis was swinging the bat like a Norse God out by the Bay? Back in Houston, he's been turned back to a bearded pumpkin. Only Bregman seems to play like an All-Star the week before five of them invade the Nation's Capitol.

It's hard to say if anyone in the West will make a serious run at the Astros but it won't be that hard with the effort we've seen the past four games. That Mideseason break can't come too soon.

Enough about Oakland. It's "Old Home Week" for the final series of the season's first half. The Detroit Tigers come to town with our old buddy Mike Fiers (6-5) tossing the seeds for the Motor City Pities in the Friday 7:10 pm Central opener. He'll face his former teammate Dallas Keuchel (6-8), who will aim for his fourth win in a row. Detroit ex Justin Verlander is scheduled to pitch for Houston on Sunday.

The Astros will reach the break with 99 games completed which means they've already played over half their season even if they made a similar postseason run as last year. They'll have two weeks before the main trade deadline when they return and you'd have to think another bullpen arm and a consistent outfield bat might be on their shopping list.

- Bob Hulsey