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A's find power stroke as Kazmir stifles Astros

HOUSTON -- Brett Lawrie, Billy Butler and Marcus Semien each blasted their first home runs as members of the A's, with Butler hitting a three-run shot over the Minute Maid Park railroad tracks in left field in the fifth inning, in an 8-1 rout of the Astros on Monday night.

A's starter Scott Kazmir won for the second time in as many starts, improving to 3-1 in eight career starts against his hometown team by allowing three hits and striking out eight in six innings. He retired the first nine batters he faced before Jose Altuve homered to lead off the fourth to cut the lead to 4-1.

"One through nine, you never know what can happen, any given day," Lawrie said. "We've been stringing hits together, and when you can do that you can be loose and just play and not worry too much. You know someone's going to pick you up. It's good to know anyone who gets in the box can do some damage."

Video: [email protected]: Lawrie crushes solo homer to center field

The first three A's batters of the game scored against Astros starter Scott Feldman, who was rocked for 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in five innings. Sam Fuld reached on Jonathan Villar's fielding error, and Mark Canha and Ben Zobrist followed with RBI doubles. Ike Davis' one-out single scored Zobrist for a 3-0 lead.

"I don't think Feldman had his good stuff today and they had a good plan against him," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They had a good game plan against him and he made some mistakes. It seemed like everything they hit did damage. I think that was a difficult first inning."

Video: [email protected]: Feldman gets double play to end the 2nd

Power parade: The A's entered the day with just three home runs, second fewest in the American League, before getting three in the first five innings of Monday's opener -- one each from newcomers Lawrie, Semien and Butler. Lawrie and Semien both hit solo shots off Feldman, while Butler sent a three-run moon shot out of the park against the right-hander in a four-run fifth. More >

Video: [email protected]: Semien smacks solo homer to extend lead

Feldman struggles mightily: The Astros didn't do Feldman any favors with two errors in the first inning, but he struggled from the get-go. The big right-hander gave up 10 hits and eight runs (seven earned) and didn't strike out a batter in five innings. More >

"No matter what happens, when I let the ball go I have to worry about making pitches, and I didn't do a good job of that tonight," Feldman said.

KKKKKKKKazmir: Kazmir fanned eight, walked three and allowed just three hits, including Altuve's fourth-inning leadoff shot, over six one-run innings. Altuve's home run was the first hit allowed by the lefty since the first inning of his last start, a stretch of 33 batters without one. Kazmir has struck out 18 of his first 48 batters of the season.

"He made such good pitches all night, kept them off-balance," said catcher Stephen Vogt. "He was working up and down, in and out, changing speeds. It was really fun to watch him work. He really didn't make a mistake. The Altuve homer was a good pitch, and he's just a really good hitter."

 Video: [email protected]: Kazmir fans eight and allows only one run

Astros sluggers struggling: The third, fourth and fifth spots in the Astros' batting order continued to struggle Monday, with George Springer, Chris Carter and Evan Gattis not providing any pop. Those three spots in the order have accounted for only five hits this year, with Gattis breaking his 0-for-23 funk with a ninth-inning single. More >

"He's hit the ball on the nose a number of times through these first six or seven games," Hinch said. "Evan Gattis will get plenty of hits for us."

Video: [email protected]: Gattis gets first hit in an Astros uniform

"He's a highlight every day it seems like. When that ball was hit, I didn't think there was any chance. I thought maybe [right fielder Josh] Reddick had a better chance to get to it. His defensive metrics in center field are really good." -- A's manager Bob Melvin, on center fielder Fuld's diving catch in the fifth to rob Jake Marisnick of extra bases

Video: [email protected]: Fuld makes nice diving catch to end the 5th

Butler extended his hitting streak to an AL-leading eight games. The last player to begin his A's career with an eight-game hitting streak was Alfredo Griffin, who hit safely in his first nine games with the club from April 9-17, 1985.

Melvin unsuccessfully challenged a safe call in the bottom of the eighth inning. Altuve hit a sharp grounder to Lawrie at third base to lead off the frame, and Lawrie's throw to first went wide, forcing Davis off the bag. Davis attempted a tag of Altuve, but Houston's second baseman was deemed safe, and the call stood.

Video: [email protected]: Safe call at first stands in 8th inning

Athletics: Right-hander Kendall Graveman will be making his second career start on Tuesday and first on the road, when he takes on the Astros for a matchup at Minute Maid Park. Graveman, who allowed one earned run in 25 1/3 spring innings, was roughed up for seven (eight total) in just 3 1/3 innings against the Rangers in his A's debut Thursday, struggling with his arm slot.

Astros: After having to use Asher Wojciechowski in relief on Monday because the bullpen was short-handed, the Astros were forced to send him down to call up right-hander Brad Peacock from Triple-A Fresno to start Tuesday's game against the A's at 7:10 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park. Peacock made one rehab start at Fresno, throwing 4 2/3 hitless innings with five walks and a hit batter. He had hip surgery in October and began the year on the disabled list while he built up his pitch count because he was behind in Spring Training.

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Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
Read More: Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros, Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie, Scott Kazmir, Marcus Semien, Scott Feldman