A's must beat Verlander, Astros to gain ground

Two veteran pitchers who have had trouble keeping the ball in the park this season seek to cool hot-hitting opponents when the Houston Astros host the Oakland Athletics on Friday night for the second time in their four-game series.

The second-place A's managed to chip into their large deficit in the American League West with a 7-6 win Thursday night in a series opener that featured 10 homers, five by each team.

The Astros retained an 8 1/2-game cushion in the division despite losing a game in which the home runs outnumbered the non-homer hits 10-5.

Right-hander Tanner Roark (7-8, 4.06 ERA) will attempt to get the A's a game closer in Friday's rematch, opposed by Astros ace righty Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.82).

Roark has gone 1-1 in two starts since joining the A's in a trade at the deadline. He has served up two homers in 11 2/3 innings, raising his season total to 16.

The 32-year-old has faced the Astros just twice in his career, going 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA.

Having enjoyed some success acquiring 30-something pitchers with in-season moves the last two years, the A's announced Thursday the addition of Matt Harvey off the scrap heap. The 30-year-old right-hander had been released by the Los Angeles Angels after going 3-5 with a 7.09 ERA this season.

"I think we are a place that maybe even some of the guys who are free agents look to," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters before Thursday's game. "We're not afraid to take a chance on a guy who's been banged up a little bit."

While Harvey will begin his A's career in the minors, Astros manager AJ Hinch announced Thursday that his Saturday starter likely will have to be plucked from Houston's minor league system. He said it probably will be either left-hander Framber Valdez or righty Rogelio Armenteros, a decision that Hinch noted would be made Friday.

The Astros have an opening in their starting rotation because Gerrit Cole sustained a hamstring injury earlier in the week. Hinch updated Cole's status Thursday, saying his 14-game winner is expected to return next week.

"We've also tossed around the idea of a bullpen-type day," Hinch added of Saturday's possibilities. "We're a little thin in the bullpen going into this series and we may or may not want to extend that in the Saturday game."

The Astros used just two relievers for a total of 2 2/3 innings in Thursday's loss, and now turn to Verlander, who has pitched seven or more innings 13 times this season.

He's also allowed homers in 19 of his 25 starts, but only one (to Stephen Piscotty) in 14 innings against the A's this season.

Verlander has gone 2-0 against the A's this year, allowing just one earned run and six hits in those 14 innings. That ran his career regular-season totals against Oakland to 14-6 with a 2.52 ERA in 22 starts.

Despite Thursday's loss, the Astros have beaten the A's in nine of their 12 meetings this season.

--Field Level Media
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