Astros face A’s, gear up for playoffs

Sports

After amassing just 12 runs over a six-game stretch during which they won only once, the Houston Astros appear to have found their offensive rhythm just in time for the playoffs.

The Astros (94-67) hit four home runs in their 10-4 home victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday, a win that clinched home-field advantage for their American League Division Series matchup with the Chicago White Sox. Game 1 in the best-of-five series is scheduled for Thursday in Houston.

Yordan Alvarez, who hit his club-leading 33rd homer, Jason Castro (eighth), Yuli Gurriel (15th) and Kyle Tucker (29th) all went deep Saturday for the Astros, who have 16 runs over the first two games of this series with the A’s (86-75).

“I like the fact that the last couple of games we’re scoring and we’ve got some guys swinging the bat pretty good,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

The Astros improved to 50-30 at Minute Maid Park this season and, in recent years, have thrived at home in the postseason, excluding their four home losses in the 2019 World Series.

Houston swept a four-game home series against the White Sox June 17-20.

“It feels great for us, it feels great for our team,” Baker said. “It feels great for our city. This is what you play for, what you wanted. We’ve got another game to play, and we’re going to try to win it and get some momentum going into the playoffs.”

Right-hander Jose Urquidy (8-3, 3.56 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Sunday. He finished 2-0 with a 4.18 ERA in five starts last month, his first since a two-month stint on the injured list with right-shoulder discomfort.

His winning streak covers his past nine starts (4-0, 3.33 ERA), and Urquidy is 0-2 with a 3.80 ERA over four career starts against the Athletics, including an 0-1 mark and 5.23 ERA over two starts this season.

Left-hander Cole Irvin (10-15, 4.18) will start the series and regular-season finale for the Athletics on Sunday. His 15 losses are the most in the American League.

Irvin, 4-12 with a 5.25 ERA in 18 starts against the AL West this season, is 2-5 with a 6.43 ERA over his past nine starts and is 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA in three career starts against the Astros, all this season.

Oakland second baseman Tony Kemp finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored Saturday to continue what has been a breakout season for the former Astros draft pick.

Kemp, selected in the fifth round by Houston in 2013, already had set several individual highs before recording his first four-hit game. He has seven homers, 35 RBIs and a .278 batting average in 327 at-bats this season.

“He’s had a great year, let alone the last couple of months,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “This is the best year he’s ever had. I know he feels comfortable here in Oakland. We treat him good, and he treats us good.”

–Field Level Media

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