OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Zack Greinke wanted to throw harder, and he surprised himself when the radar gun read 93 mph on a fastball in the first inning — and it sure felt great.
“I was surprised, for sure,” he said.
José Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, Yuli Gurriel drove in four runs to back Greinke, and the Houston Astros won for the seventh time in eight games by beating the Oakland Athletics 8-1 on Wednesday night.
Greinke (4-1) struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter, allowing one run on four hits over eight impressive innings to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season.
“It ended up being a lot harder. I don’t really know completely what it is,” Greinke said of his fastball. “It was nice, and I was throwing strikes with it, too, so that was good.”
Gurriel hit a pair of two-run doubles among his four hits, Carlos Correa contributed two RBI singles and Michael Brantley also singled home a late run for Houston.
“Yuli was awesome. He’s been awesome all year long,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s been clutching up. He’s been driving in runs.”
The Astros pulled back within a half-game of the defending AL West champion A’s in the division race — with everybody realizing it’s still early but fully expecting these two clubs to chase each other down to the end. Houston hasn’t led the West since April 8.
Greinke joked with his team that the high winds helped his cause. Baker was thrilled Greinke produced one of his best starts this year, with “pinpoint control” to save the bullpen.
“You know Greinke, he has that same look on his face all the time. He came in and had a couple smiles on his face, that’s about it,” Baker said.
Sean Murphy had an RBI double in the second for Oakland, coming off its major league-leading fifth walk-off win in a 6-5 victory a night earlier. But Murphy exited early after getting hit by a series of foul balls behind the plate.
“He had two to the mask. The last one actually was shoulder and lacerated his ear a little bit,” manager Bob Melvin said. “With three blows like that, it was just precautionary. No concussion or headache at all. There’s a chance he could play tomorrow. We’ll see, but just didn’t want to take any chances after the third one.”
Altuve, still getting booed at every chance in Oakland since the Astros’ 2017-18 sign-stealing scam was exposed, extended his hitting streak to 13 games. It’s his first hitting streak of 12 or more games since a career-best 19-game string during the 2017 World Series championship season.
A’s righty Frankie Montas (5-3) had his three-start winning streak snapped. He allowed two runs and seven hits over five innings, struck out six and walked two.
Astros right-handed pitching prospect Tyler Ivey has been called up to make his major league debut Friday against Texas.
“It’s indescribable,” said the 25-year-old Ivey, who grew up in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett as a Rangers fan. “To be making my debut there, I really can’t describe it.”
He’s expecting as many as 50 friends and family members in the stands.
“It’ll be pretty overwhelming. It’ll be quite the experience, for sure,” said Ivey, who also had a short stint as an Astros fan more than 15 years ago.
Astros: Baker remains hopeful of welcoming back third base coach Gary Pettis sometime in June after his absence while undergoing treatment for cancer in Southern California.
“He’s making great strides. He’s hoping sometime next month,” Baker said of the 63-year-old Pettis, fighting multiple myeloma. “We miss him. We just pray that he gets healed.”
Athletics: RHP Mike Fiers, on the injured list with a sprained elbow, isn’t ready to play catch yet. “He hasn’t thrown yet. He’s still doing strengthening stuff,” Melvin said. “We’re still a ways away with him.” … LHP A.J. Puk (strained left biceps) is set to pitch an inning with Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday, while LHP Jesús Luzardo (hairline fracture in his pinkie) will throw with the A’s. He is likely to need some innings with Las Vegas before returning, too.
LHP Cole Irvin (3-4, 3.02 ERA) takes the mound for the A’s in the series finale looking for his first victory against the Astros after going 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA in two previous matchups, both this year. Houston starts RHP Luis García (1-3, 3.34) as he tries to win consecutive outings for the first time in his career.
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