HOUSTON — The Oakland Athletics have a simple goal as they near the end of a dreadful season.
“Our mentality is just go out there and win and ruin as many seasons as we can,” Oakland outfielder Tony Kemp said. “Because we’re not going to be playing in October.”
Shea Langeliers and Kemp both homered as the Athletics jumped on Justin Verlander early in a 6-2 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
Oakland has won the first two games of this series to avoid its 100th loss this season. Houston’s lead in the AL West dwindled to one game with the loss and a win by Texas over Toronto on Tuesday night.
“You ain’t got no choice, you’ve just got to keep fighting,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s what this game is all about and that’s what this team is all about.”
The Astros home woes continued as they fell to 37-37 at Minute Maid Park this season after dropping 12 of their last 16 games there.
Baker insisted that he’s not concerned about the inconsistent play of his team as the postseason approaches.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “But I’m not worried.”
A two-run homer by Langeliers made it 3-0 in the first inning and Kemp’s shot in the fifth made it 5-1.
“We talked about trying to make a statement that we’ve obviously got a lot more competitive since the beginning of the year,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “And we knew that we had 18 divisional games in front of us. And this was a part of our stretch that we wanted to go out and compete and win baseball games in our division. And also you kind of use this as a test to see where we’re at going forward for next year.”
Verlander (11-8) allowed eight hits and five runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings in his eighth start since a trade from the New York Mets.
Verlander was asked if the first two games of this series have been shocking.
“It’s baseball,” he said. “It’s two games. You don’t want to panic over two games. Obviously, I think you would like to win those games against a team that hasn’t been as good as us this season. but you’re not guaranteed anything.”
Oakland starter J.P. Sears (5-11) yielded five hits and two runs in six innings for his third straight win.
A night after getting shut out 4-0, the Astros again had trouble stringing hits together. Houston, which scored 39 runs in a three-game sweep at Texas last week, went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position Tuesday against the lowly A’s.
Zack Gelof got things going with a double with one out in the first before the Athletics made it 1-0 when he scored on a single by Ryan Noda. There were two outs in the inning when Langeliers sent a curveball from Verlander onto the train tracks atop left field to make it 3-0.
The 40-year-old Verlander slumped his shoulders as soon as Langeliers made contact, knowing the ball was gone without even seeing it leave the yard. It’s the second straight tough start at home for the three-time Cy Young Award winner, who allowed six hits, including a season-high four homers in a loss to the Yankees on Sept. 1.
Jose Altuve hit a leadoff single for the Astros before slugger Yordan Alvarez singled on a rare bunt with one out. Alex Bregman walked to load the bases before Houston cut the lead to 3-1 when Altuve scored on a groundout by Kyle Tucker.
Gelof’s second double started the third and he scored on a one-out double by Seth Brown that made it 4-1.
Kemp opened the fifth with his homer to right-center to extend the lead to 5-1.
Mauricio Dubón and Martín Maldonado hit consecutive singles to start Houston’s fifth. But the Athletics got a double play when Jose Altuve popped out and Maldonado was out at first.
Jeremy Peña doubled to score Dubón and cut the lead to 3, but Alvarez struck out to end the inning.
Noda was hit by a pitch to start the eighth and scored on a double by Brown to extend the lead to 6-2.
Houston RHP Hunter Brown (10-11, 4.78 ERA) opposes RHP Paul Blackburn (4-4, 3.88) when the series wraps up Wednesday night.
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