HOUSTON (AP) — Ken Waldichuk pitched six hitless innings in relief and Brent Rooker hit the first of three home runs by the Oakland Athletics in their 4-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night.
Houston, which has a two-game lead in the AL West over Texas, fell to 9-2 against the last-place A’s this season. Oakland improved to 45-99, delaying the team’s 100th loss for at least another day.
“They threw a good game against us,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing if a guy is dealing on the mound out there. They were dealing.”
Last season, Oakland went 60-102 following an 86-76 finish in 2021. The A’s need one more win in their final 18 games to assure they will avoid matching the franchise record of 117 losses in a season set when the team was in Philadelphia. The low mark in Oakland is 108 in 1979.
“We’ve had a few good games of late against some playoff-contending teams,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “But tonight — in terms of on the mound — this was probably the best pitching performance we’ve had all year.”
Shea Langeliers and Ryan Noda also had solo homers for the A’s.
Oakland opener Mason Miller pitched two innings and allowed one hit. Waldichuk (3-7) entered in the third and gave up just two baserunners, on a walk and a hit by pitch.
“I felt like we were getting ahead a lot and our game plan worked really well,” Waldichuk said. “That’s a top one or two offense in the AL so it means a little more to do it against them.”
The left-hander has permitted only one run in his last three outings, spanning 16 innings. He hasn’t given up a run in his past 12 innings.
José Altuve led off the ninth with a single, the Astros’ first hit since Jeremy Peña singled in the first. Peña followed Altuve with another single off reliever Trevor May, and what was left of the Minute Maid Park crowd began to stir.
But then May was able to retire Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker on three straight flyouts to hang on.
“We had an opportunity that looked a little promising,” Tucker said. “As long as we’re trying to grind together at-bats, we’re still in games. It just didn’t work out tonight.”
Oakland took a 1-0 lead in the second when Rooker crushed a 95 mph sinker from Framber Valdez (11-10) a projected 442 feet onto the train tracks above left field.
The A’s picked up another run in the fifth when Kevin Smith doubled to right and Nick Allen followed with a single to make it 2-0.
Langeliers hit his 18th homer in the seventh, and Noda connected off Rafael Montero in the ninth for his 15th of the season.
Valdez allowed three runs on four hits and one walk while striking out 10 in seven innings. He is 2-3 with two no-decisions since pitching a no-hitter against Cleveland on Aug. 1.
Athletics: OF JJ Bleday (left knee sprain) took batting practice for the first time since getting hurt Aug. 13. The second-year player was hitting .203 with 10 homers and 27 RBIs in 77 games for Oakland when he went down.
Astros: RHP Ryne Stanek played catch Sunday and threw on Monday for the first time since injuring his ankle last Monday at Texas, but Baker said it will be a while before the reliever is ready to return.
“He might be one of the best arms I’ve seen in person, if we’re being honest. His stuff’s just unreal. It’s fun to watch him out there. I knew when he was opening today, he was going to set the tone, and I felt like it was my responsibility to keep it going.” — Waldichuk on Miller.
Altuve was selected American League Player of the Week for last week. He hit .357 with six home runs, eight RBIs, a .400 on-base percentage, a 1.000 slugging percentage and a 1.400 OPS in six games. Altuve homered in four consecutive innings Monday and Tuesday, becoming the only player in the majors since 1900 to do so. It’s the fifth time Altuve has won the award and second this season.
Houston RHP Justin Verlander (11-7, 3.23 ERA) faces LHP JP Sears (4-11, 4.51) in the middle game of the series Tuesday.