OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — It’s only May, yet the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics sure look like they might be fighting for the AL West over the next four months.
Ramón Laureano hit two home runs, then lofted a game-ending sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to send the A’s past the Astros 6-5 on Tuesday night, ending Houston’s season-best six-game winning streak.
“It seems like he always hits a homer against us,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of the former Houston outfielder. “He’s cold in our reports coming in here but he warmed back up against us.”
Laureano pumped his left fist when his one-out flyball off Bryan Abreu (2-2) reached center field and Mark Canha scurried home from third.
“Even those games that we don’t win, playing the games we feel like we can come back anytime,” Laureano said.
Matt Chapman hit a tying double in the eighth after Canha’s sacrifice fly the previous inning.
Yusmeiro Petit (5-0) pitched the ninth for the win.
Defending AL West champion Oakland moved 1 1/2 games up on the Astros and has led the division since April 8.
“If it’s anything like it has been the first three series then it’s going to be a wild ride,” A’s left-hander Sean Manaea said of the race with Houston, “looking forward to it.”
Kyle Tucker homered and Yordan Álvarez hit a two-run double in the first for Houston.
Astros starter Cristian Javier struck out nine in six innings, allowing three runs on five hits while facing Oakland for the third time this season.
Laureano hit solo shots in the first and fourth against Javier to give him 10 homers. He’s tied for the team lead with Matt Olson, who hit his 10th in the sixth.
“We’re down and then all of a sudden Ramon shows up for a couple homers and it feels like a different game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Whether it’s defensively, whether it’s on the basepaths, he always finds a way to be part of a win and today was obviously a lot more than just part of a win.”
Jose Altuve went 2 for 5 and extended his hitting streak to 12 games, his first string of 12 or more games since a career-best 19-game hitting streak in 2017.
Manaea allowed three runs on 10 hits in six innings.
The Astros are 17-8 dating to April 22, winning six of their last seven series.
Baker got to watch son Darren, the second baseman for California, play at Stanford on Monday night — a 7-6, 12-inning defeat for the Golden Bears to their rival.
“I got kind of sleepy and cold out there. My son, he had a little tough go yesterday,” Baker said of Darren’s 1-for-6 day. “It was a tough game but I’m glad I got to see him play.”
MORE FANS AT MINUTE MAID PARK
When Houston heads home, the Astros will be able to see more faces in the crowd at Minute Maid Park — and potentially even a full house as the ballpark can now bring in fans to fill the venue to full capacity for the remainder of the year.
“We’re entertainers, and we need that certain energy from our fans,” Baker said.
Fans who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks inside the stadium.
“It’s important that it’s still safety first, but at the same time we love having our fans and the support that they bring us day in and day out,” left fielder Michael Brantley said. “We have some of the best fans in MLB so it’s always appreciated when we have a full house and we have their support behind us.”
Astros: RHP José Urquidy, sidelined with discomfort behind his shoulder, threw on flat ground and “came out of it great” in his rehab and could be ready to pitch off a mound in the coming days, according to Baker.
Athletics: SS Elvis Andrus had just his second day off of the season. … The A’s placed designated hitter Mitch Moreland on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Friday with inflammation between ribs on the left side. Moreland had missed the last two games at Minnesota over the weekend with the injury. It’s unclear how long he will be sidelined, and Moreland’s workload in the cage will be limited for now. … Oakland recalled OF Luis Barrera from Triple-A Las Vegas for his first stint in the big leagues. “I’ve been impressed with him for a couple of springs, I told him that,” Melvin said. “Special day for him.” … RHP J.B. Wendelken (strained left oblique) began throwing a sock in his rehab, “which he was excited about because he actually got to throw something.” … LHP Jesús Luzardo (broken pinkie) threw on flat ground Monday out to 120 feet.
RHP Zack Greinke (3-1, 4.18 ERA) takes the mound for the Astros looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season, pitching opposite A’s righty Frankie Montas (5-2, 4.93 ERA) trying to win his fourth consecutive start.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports