MLB: Astros eager to pick on lowly Athletics again

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Jose Altuve and Mauricio Dubon are expected to start together for the first time this season — perhaps as early as the series opener — when the Houston Astros and host Oakland Athletics meet for three straight days beginning Friday night.

Oakland’s James Kaprielian (0-4, 8.68 ERA) and Houston’s Hunter Brown (4-1, 3.20) are the scheduled Friday starters in a matchup of right-handers.

The American League West foes met last weekend in Houston, with the second-place Astros sweeping three low-scoring affairs from the last-place A’s: 5-1, 3-2 and 2-0.

Oakland’s losing streak now is at eight games after a 3-2 loss at Seattle on Thursday. Houston earned its eighth win in a row Monday at Milwaukee, then got shut out by the Brewers in the last two games of the series.

Dubon, the Astros’ primary second baseman while Altuve sat out with a broken right thumb, missed the three games against the A’s with a strained left hamstring before returning to action on Monday.

Dubon’s absence coincided with Altuve’s season debut. Altuve went 2-for-9 against Oakland, then went 1-for-3 in a loss Tuesday at Milwaukee during which he had to be pulled from the lineup with an illness.

Altuve sat out the series finale vs. the Brewers on Wednesday but should be back to face the A’s, likely while manning second base.

Dubon, who split time between the infield and outfield with the San Francisco Giants and Astros last season, has played one game at shortstop this year, but he might see more action there.

“I knew coming in that, no matter what you do, you can’t replace a future Hall of Famer,” said Dubon, who takes a .297 batting average into the Oakland series. “I think that’s why I’m OK (moving to a new position). He’s the captain. He’s the leader of the team. I think I’m more excited for him to come back than anybody.”

Brown is set to make his second consecutive start against the A’s. The 24-year-old allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings during a no-decision on Saturday, striking out nine in his first career appearance against Oakland.

Meanwhile, the A’s hope a change of venue produces a change of fortune when they get a rematch with the Astros.

Oakland is coming off an 0-7 trip as it returns to its home field, which hasn’t been an advantage this year. The club’s 10 wins are equally split between home and road this season.

The A’s hope having Seth Brown back in the lineup can help turn things around. He missed 40 consecutive games due to a strained left oblique before returning for the just-concluded, four-game series in Seattle.

Brown started three of the four losses to the Mariners, collecting two hits and an RBI on Monday, then hitting a two-run, first-inning homer that produced Oakland’s only scoring during the 3-2 loss on Thursday.

“We got them early. You’ve got to add on,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “At the end of the day, it’s the offense’s job to add on and give them some room and cushion, and we haven’t done that. We didn’t do that this series, and we didn’t win any games.”

Kaprielian also pitched in last week’s series, limiting the hosts to one run in five innings en route to a 2-0 loss Sunday. The 29-year-old is 0-1 with a 2.51 ERA against Houston in three career appearances, including two starts.

–Field Level Media

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