The Oakland A's are on the uptick once again.
August didn't start so well for the A's. Oakland had lost six of eight before going to Toronto. Then Josh Reddick hit five home runs in two games catalyzing a napping offense en route to a three-games-to-one series win.
The team that entered the series with a 632 OPS in six games against the Blue Jays left with a 933 mark and some much needed confidence. They return home to host the Houston Astros, which shouldn't hurt either.
The A's are 11-1 against Houston on the season and have outscored them nearly 2-1 (80-42, officially). It's no coincidence the A's are hitting .285/.380/.500 against the Astros, their best numbers in all three categories against teams they've played more than three times this season.
For the past two years, the A's have thrived on being the undervalued and under-reported underdog, so being a game back of the Texas Rangers should have them feeling right at home.
Reddick aside, there's no one that benefited more from the weekend in Toronto than Alberto Callaspo, who had gone hitless in his first five games since coming to Oakland for Grant Green. Callaspo started three games, notched five hits in 11 at-bats and drove in four runs. He had key hits late in the Sunday and Monday games, although his defense in the series left a lot to be desired. Perhaps a return to the grass infield in Oakland will help.
The Astros come with a 7-28 record since July 1. They didn't do the A's any favors by losing six of seven combined to the Red Sox and Rangers.
The series opens Tuesday night when the A's send Bartolo Colon (14-4, 2.75 ERA) against Jordan Lyles (4-6, 5.40 ERA). Colon is coming off one of his worst outings of the year when he lasted just 2.2 innings in Cincinnati. The Reds scored five times. His velocity was down and the A's are hoping the 40-year-old has not hit a wall this late in the season.
Colon received an extra two days off since that outing, which the team hopes will reinvigorate his fastball. He had not yielded more than three earned runs in a start since May 9.
Lyles has not faced the A's this year. He's coming off an eight run performance and hitters have slashed .389/.447/.622 against him over his last four starts, all of which his team lost.
The right-hander has a 10-strikeout game under his belt June 12 against the Mariners, but has a 7.45 ERA since. He has an interesting five-pitch repertoire, but only his cutter and curve rate as plus offerings, despite a fastball that averages better than 92 MPH.
Wednesday's game will have Jarred Cosart (1-0, 1.36 ERA) go against Jarrod Parker (8-6, 4.04 ERA). The 23-year-old Cosart threw very well when he made his second big league start against the A's on July 23, matching Parker with just one earned run allowed. That game was Houston's only win over the A's this season.
Cosart throws very hard and has a limited but explosive three-pitch tool belt. He allowed two runs to Boston in five innings in his last time out.
Parker has earned wins in his last two starts allowing five runs in 12 innings to the Rangers and Blue Jays. Strangely, Parker has been considerably worse in Oakland this season with a 4.65 ERA compared to a 3.42 clip elsewhere.
The right-hander allowed five hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings in his last start against Houston. Only shortstop Jonathan Villar registered a multi-hit game against Parker.
The series concludes Thursday when Sonny Gray (0-1, 1.80 ERA) makes his second major league start. He will take on Erik Bedard (3-8, 4.28 ERA). Gray showed resiliency in his first start after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Bautista Saturday in Toronto. Gray allowed four runs total, although only two were earned after his defense had let him down in the second and third innings.
Bedard had a rough July, losing all five of his starts despite having a respectable 3.86 ERA and .224 average against. Bedard has made two starts against the A's this season, including one bad start that lasted less than an inning. He has allowed eight runs in 5.1 innings against Oakland this season. The former Mariner has been very good in his career in Oakland. In five starts, the left-hander is 3-1 and has amassed a 3.49 ERA with a .170/.272/.290 slash line to hitters.