ASTROS (39-20) AT ATHLETICS (29-29)
4:07 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, ATTSN-SW, MLB.TV
In-state product Gerrit Cole looks to continue his dominance over California teams at California sites when he attempts to pitch the visiting Houston Astros to a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.
Justin Verlander pitched brilliantly for eight innings and former A’s outfielder Josh Reddick hit his second home run in two games, leading the Astros to a 5-1 win on Saturday night that followed a 3-2 victory in the series opener Friday.
The first-place Astros have won six of seven from the A’s this season.
Cole (5-5, 4.02) will make his first start against the A’s this season, and the seventh of his career. The Los Angeles-area native has gone 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA against the A’s, including 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts in Oakland.
Cole has accumulated an 18-7 career record against Major League Baseball’s five California teams. He’s 10-3 at California sites.
The 28-year-old is expected to get a new experience Sunday when he’s throwing to catcher Garrett Stubbs. The Astros are expected to give Stubbs just his second major league start.
Stubbs, a San Diego native, made his big-league debut Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs and found himself catching fellow minor league call-up Corbin Martin.
He recognizes working with Cole will require less leading and more following.
“My goal is just to make sure Gerrit is feeling comfortable,” Stubbs said Saturday, “and we have a good, quality start to get us a win.”
Current members of the A’s roster have a cumulative .203 batting average against Cole in 118 career at-bats.
Matt Olson, who struck out against Verlander in a key eighth-inning at-bat on Saturday night, has been Cole’s most popular victim, going 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts.
The A’s welcomed back Khris Davis from the injured list for Saturday’s game, but the slugger, like most Oakland batters, was snuffed out by Verlander, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
Nonetheless, A’s manager Bob Melvin assured before the game that just seeing Davis on the lineup card provided a boost for his ballclub, which has lost four in a row after winning 10 straight.
“He’s one of the better power hitters in the game, so it’s nice to get him back,” Melvin gushed. “From a mental standpoint for the team as well, it’s a big pick-me-up.”
Davis has gone 6-for-24 (.250) in his career against Cole with one homer and 10 strikeouts.
Cole has allowed at least one home run in nine of his 12 starts this season. He will be up against an A’s lineup that has hit 11 in their last five games, with eight players contributing at least one.
In fact, the only three runs the A’s have scored in the series have been the product of home runs. Matt Chapman hit a two-run shot in Friday’s 3-2 loss, while Stephen Piscotty produced Oakland’s only run off Verlander with a solo homer.
The A’s will send right-hander Chris Bassitt (3-1, 3.27) in search of a sweep-preventing win.
Bassitt has faced the Astros three times in his career, twice as a starter, and gone 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA.
–Field Level Media