Maldonado’s 3 RBIs lead Astros over A’s 8-4 and into 1st

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)Martin Maldonado homered and drove in three runs, helping the Houston Astros beat the Oakland 8-4 on Thursday to move ahead of the Athletics for the AL West lead.

Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel also had run-scoring hits for the Astros in the rubber match of a three-game series. Houston is 21-9 against division opponents, including 7-3 against Oakland, and at 26-18 has sole possession of the division lead for the first time since before play on April 9.

”There’s always significance when you’re in first place,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. ”We’ll take it at any point in time of the season and, hopefully, we never relinquish first place.”

Mark Canha, Tony Kemp and Seth Brown homered for the A’s (26-19).

Luis Garcia (2-3) won his second straight start, limiting the Athletics to two runs and three hits in five innings with seven strikeouts.

Cole Irvin (3-5) struggled for Oakland, allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin was ejected by plate umpire Alan Porter following the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

”I was just a little bit frustrated and probably went a little too far,” Melvin admitted. ”A couple of things over the course of the game. Probably my fault for getting thrown out.”

Canha homered leading off the first, and Houston took a a 3-1 lead in the third, sparked by Maldonado’s RBI double.

Kemp hit his first homer with the Athletics in the bottom half and doubled and walked.

Maldonado’s two-run homer boosted the lead to 5-2 in the fourth.

”He gave us a tremendous lift,” Baker said of his catcher. ”He’s been swinging the bat a lot better lately. … That’s big when you’re getting that production out of the bottom (of the lineup).”

Jed Lowrie singled home Matt Olson in the sixth, but Jose Altuve singled in the seventh inning for a 14-game hitting streak. An run-scoring double by Bregman, who went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, boosted the lead to 7-3.

”I think we’re putting together good at-bats up and down the lineup,” Bregman said. ”I think guys did a really good job of having great quality at-bats, swinging at good pitches, taking balls and getting our best swing off as many times as we could at pitches that we could drive.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Jose Urquidy, on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, threw off a mound and is expected to go on a minor league rehab assignment soon. … LHP Blake Taylor (sprained ankle) will head out on a rehab assignment in the next couple of days.

Athletics: LHP Jesus Luzardo (fractured pinkie) threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Thursday. He will need to throw at least one more bullpen before he faces hitters. … C Sean Murphy returned to the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game early for precautionary reasons. Murphy was hit by a series of foul balls but had no concussion symptoms.

UP NEXT

Astros: RHP Tyler Ivey is to make his major league debut as Houston opens a three-game series at Texas on Friday. The 25-year-old was a third-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft.

Athletics: RHP James Kaprielian (1-0, 1.80 ERA) makes his second big league start Friday night as the A’s begin a three-game series in Anaheim against the Angels.

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