As first impressions go, Homer Bailey made a good one on the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
But Bailey was acquired to help Oakland beat teams like the Houston Astros, who he faces Monday night in the opener of the teams' big three-game series at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
That Bailey knocked off the Seattle Mariners 10-2 on Wednesday in his A's debut was fine and dandy. He permitted two runs on seven hits over six solid innings, walking none and fanning six in beating Seattle for the second time in a month. He blanked them for 7 2/3 innings on June 18 while pitching for the Kansas City Royals.
However, Bailey (8-6, 4.69 ERA) will have a tougher challenge in his second Oakland outing. Not only are the Astros (64-37) coming into this one with a 6 1/2-game lead over the A's in the American League West, but Oakland needs length from Bailey after a tough ending to its series in Minnesota on Sunday.
After starter Daniel Mengden was knocked out following 3 1/3 ineffective innings, the A's bullpen pieced together five one-run innings to help bring them within two outs of another comeback win over the Twins. But closer Liam Hendriks blew his first save in nine chances as Minnesota scored two in the ninth for a 7-6 verdict.
Working in Bailey's favor in this game is that his start against Seattle was his first in 13 days. Kansas City manager Ned Yost pulled him from a July 14 outing against Detroit after he was shipped to the Bay Area. Monday's start will be on his normal four days' rest.
"A little rusty early, and then I was able to find that tempo and where I wanted to be," Bailey said after Wednesday's win, per MLB.com. "The way this team fights for nine innings is outstanding. I know if I can keep it close, they're going to score runs and play great defense."
Bailey is 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in eight career starts against the Astros.
With Gerrit Cole (10-5, 3.12) taking the mound for Houston, Bailey will have to be sharp. Cole has allowed more than one run just once in his last six starts, including an 11-2 victory Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Angels.
Cole scattered seven hits and ceded a run over seven innings, whiffing 11 and walking only one. It was the sixth time in his last 10 starts that Cole has fanned 10 or more hitters.
His total of 194 strikeouts leads MLB, and with second-place Max Scherzer (181) on the injured list, Cole could make a mockery of that race.
According to Cole, his changeup was critical to shutting down the Angels. He threw it 11 times, tying his season high.
"I've thrown some better ones, but I didn't throw it in a bad spot all night," he said to MLB.com after that start. "It was the first time all year that I really located it in good spots and missed in good spots."
Cole is 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA in seven career starts against Oakland.
The Astros enter this series fresh off a sweep of the Texas Rangers. Michael Brantley homered twice in Sunday's series finale, a 5-3 decision.
--Field Level Media
Bailey prepares for second A's start vs. Astros