For a team that hasn’t exactly turned its games into home run derbies this season, the A’s power sure is coming in handy lately.
They went deep three times Friday, accounting for all their runs in a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros. Danny Valencia enjoyed his first two-homer game as an Athletic and rookie Ryan Dull notched his first career save.
The Astros, reeling from a four-game sweep at the hands of a Rangers team that knocked them out of first place in the AL West, might have welcomed a series with the last-place A’s to try and stabilize themselves. But Oakland continued showing some offensive thump that’s been missing for most of 2015.
The A's entered the night ranked 12th out of 15 AL teams with 130 homers, but have now hit 35 home runs in their last 23 contests. That power has come from a variety of sources, including Josh Reddick, who got the A’s on the board with a shot into the right field seats in the fourth off Mike Fiers. Valencia followed with his first shot of the night -- a liner to left that pulled the A’s to within 3-2. He later added a two-run shot in the eighth off Pat Neshek to put the A’s up for good.
Starting pitching report
Felix Doubront allowed a run in each of the first three innings. But by the time the lefty departed, he had turned in a quality start, going six innings and allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked one.
There was a Barry Zito sighting in the bullpen, as the veteran lefty started throwing in the top of the eighth. But it was Dull who stole the show, firing two scoreless innings to close out the victory and notch his first big league save. The rookie continues to produce, and he’s doing so in high-pressure, late-inning situations.
At the plate
What a welcome addition Valencia’s power has been since he’s come to the A’s. He’s homered nine times since coming over on Aug. 4, and his 31 RBI are tied for third-most in Oakland history for a player in his first 33 games with the team. Just a day earlier, it was Billy Butler providing a go-ahead three-run homer in the ninth against the White Sox. Billy Burns returned from a right hamstring injury to pinch hit in the seventh, and he singled in the eighth. The A’s are now 4-4 on this 10-game road trip that concludes Sunday.
[STIGLICH: Butler's late bomb lifts A's over White Sox]
In the field
Doubront benefited from a couple of outstanding plays from his defense. In the third, center fielder Sam Fuld raced into right-center and went flying through the air for a diving catch to rob Carlos Correa. Second baseman Brett Lawrie made a difficult over-the-head grab on George Springer’s pop to shallow center, the second time Lawrie has made like a wide receiver and hauled in a catch like that with his back turned to home plate.
Sonny Gray (13-7, 2.56) and Scott Kazmir (7-10, 2.63) match up for the second time in 11 days on Saturday. Gray got the best of his former teammate in a 4-0 victory on Sept. 8 at the Coliseum. First pitch is 4:10 p.m.