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Astros fall again, now tied with A's in AL West

Houston takes 7th loss in past 8 games after Keuchel hit hard in 5 2/3 IP
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

OAKLAND -- The reeling Astros have some company atop the American League West standings.

The A's, who trailed the Astros by 12 games on June 18, forged a first-place tie behind seven dominant innings by starting pitcher Trevor Cahill to send Houston to its seventh loss in eight games, 7-1, on Saturday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum.

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OAKLAND -- The reeling Astros have some company atop the American League West standings.

The A's, who trailed the Astros by 12 games on June 18, forged a first-place tie behind seven dominant innings by starting pitcher Trevor Cahill to send Houston to its seventh loss in eight games, 7-1, on Saturday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum.

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How far have the Astros fallen? They led the AL West by six games on July 24 but have lost 13 of their last 20 games to drop into a first-place tie with the A's, who have won 40 of 53 games since June 16. The Astros have been hit hard by injuries to key players in recent weeks and hope to get reigning AL Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve back in a couple of days.

• Altuve to begin rehab assignment Sunday

"We're just kind of banged up and going through the motions, it looks like," Astros starter Dallas Keuchel said. "Now we're tied atop the division, but there's a lot of games left and I wouldn't discount this team, either."

Cahill (5-2) allowed only an infield single to Yuli Gurriel in the second inning and a leadoff walk to Alex Bregman in the seventh, setting down 20 of the 22 batters he faced. Tony Kemp walloped a solo homer with one out in the ninth to avert the shutout bid by Oakland.

Video: HOU@OAK: Kemp lifts a solo home run to right

"He dominated us," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He was clearly doing whatever he wanted to with the ball. He could cut it, sink it. He threw changeups. When they got the lead, he pitched pretty aggressively and we chased. He controlled the game."

The Astros were never pushed in the division last year, opening a 10-game lead by May, but did have to win three elimination games in the playoffs, including a pair of Game 7s. Shortstop Carlos Correa said the Astros can pull strength from that adversity

"Right now, we've got to focus more on getting better at-bats together as position players in order for us to have a better chance to win the game," Correa said. "Obviously, that's including myself. We can do a better job than what we're doing right now."

Oakland rocked Keuchel for five runs and nine hits, including six doubles, in 5 2/3 innings. Keuchel absorbed only his second loss in the past two months.

"We're going to have to play more consistent if we want to win this division," Keuchel said. "There's a sense of urgency, but no panic."

Keuchel (9-10) gave up a two-run double to Khris Davis in the first inning before settling in and keeping the score at 2-0 through five innings. But he gave up three consecutive doubles to start the sixth, including a two-run shot by Stephen Piscotty, and another double two outs later that ended his day. The A's hit a season-high eight doubles in the game.

Video: HOU@OAK: Keuchel retires Phegley, strands 2 runners

"They got in that momentum with really good at-bats and double after double after double," Hinch said. "I'm sure those pitches weren't executed exactly where he wanted, but they continued to put up really good at-bats. He didn't need to make perfect pitches, but he didn't get the ball on the ground today the way he normally does."

SOUND SMART
Keuchel, who ranked second in the Majors in ground-ball rate entering the game (56 percent), had more flyouts (five) than groundouts (four).

HE SAID IT
"We're going to go out there tomorrow and have fun and compete like we always do. I think we've lost that a little bit the last couple of weeks. We have to go out there and be ourselves and take care of business." -- Correa

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The A's Josh Phegley appeared to hit into a double play to end the second inning, but the A's challenged the call at first base and got it overturned, resulting in a fielder's choice. Marcus Semien popped out on the next pitch to end the inning.

Video: HOU@OAK: Phagley ruled safe at first after challenge

UP NEXT
Justin Verlander (11-8. 2.52 ERA) will make another try for career win No. 200 when the Astros wrap up their series against the A's at 3:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum. Verlander is 2-6 with a 3.94 ERA in his last 11 starts after going 9-2 with a 1.61 ERA in his first 15 starts of the season. Lefty Sean Manaea (11-8, 3.44 ERA) will start for Oakland.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel