Frustrated Astros look to get back on track vs. A's

HOUSTON -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch spoke with obvious frustration in the aftermath of another Houston loss on Thursday, the 13th setback in 19 games for top team in the American League.

Hinch focused his ire on the umpiring after the Astros took their sixth shutout loss on the season and fourth since July 26, this one a 4-0 defeat to the Diamondbacks.

If his team can generate some wins, it was a diatribe that would be worth the effort and the fine Hinch is certain to incur.

The Astros look to regain momentum over the final six games of their homestand, starting Friday night when the Oakland Athletics visit Minute Maid Park in the opener of a three-game series.

Following the Thursday loss, Hinch said, "I've always said to worry about yourself, to worry about your team, to go compete the best you can and then you walk out there and they don't have to throw strikes to get you out, it's ridiculous. I know we're not supposed to talk about the umpires; these guys are good men. But honestly today to have the 27th out taken away, we play with 26, it ain't fair. It's not right, it's not fair.

"I'm tired of it. I'm tired of our guys getting taken to task for knowing the strike zone, and that's not the reason that we lost today. That's not the reason that we've had a tough week, but it's garbage when you start getting at-bats taken away from you.

"We'll take it on the chin when we get beat, but this is an accumulation of a weeklong feeling that we've gotten the wrong end of these strike zones. Again, that's a separate issue."

Hinch and the Astros (74-47) would experience less frustration if Dallas Keuchel delivers a sharp outing.

Keuchel (10-2, 2.77 ERA) is 1-2 with a 7.27 ERA in four starts since returning from the disabled list July 28. After allowing eight runs against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 8, Keuchel bounced back by allowing a run and six hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win at Texas on Sunday.

Keuchel is 4-3 with a 2.56 ERA over 16 career appearances (14 starts) against Oakland, including a pair of 7-2 victories on April 14 and April 30 in which he allowed two earned runs on seven hits and four walks with 16 strikeouts over 14 2/3 innings.

The Athletics (53-68) will counter with Sean Manaea (8-7, 4.59 ERA). The left-hander is 1-2 with a 2.13 ERA over seven career appearances against the Astros. He is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three starts this season against Houston.

Manaea is 0-2 with a 17.55 ERA in August. He allowed six runs and six hits in one-third of an inning on Aug. 11 in a 12-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

Oakland completed a nine-game homestand with a 3-6 record following a 7-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. The Athletics have dropped 10 of 12 games against the Astros this season.

Spiraling toward a third consecutive season outside of playoff contention, the Athletics have again turned to youth down the stretch. That makes for a challenge for everyone involved, particularly in a division where the remaining four teams are battling for postseason berths.

"You want guys to know we play 27 outs here, no matter what the score is," Athletics manager Bob Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday. "Even if you lose, you want (the opponent) to remember that you never give up."
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