OAKLAND -- Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel continued his strong start to the season by holding the A's to one run and four hits in seven innings, and Brian McCann drove in three runs and Norichika Aoki added two RBIs to send the Astros to a 7-2 win in the series
OAKLAND -- Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel continued his strong start to the season by holding the A's to one run and four hits in seven innings, and Brian McCann drove in three runs and Norichika Aoki added two RBIs to send the Astros to a 7-2 win in the series opener Friday night at the Oakland Coliseum.
The win was the first for Keuchel in the Oakland Coliseum in seven career games (six starts) as the Astros extended their winning streak over the A's to eight games.
"I've been really feeling good with the way the ball is coming out of my hand and the shape and movement of each and every pitch, and have been trying to go off that," Keuchel said.
The only blemish against Keuchel (2-0) was a leadoff homer by Khris Davis in the second inning that gave Oakland the lead. Aoki's first homer for Houston tied the game in the fifth. After Aoki beat out an infield single to make 2-1 in the sixth, the Astros scored three times in the seventh, including a two-run double by McCann, to take a 5-1 lead.
"I thought he was really good," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He competed really well. When he got early strikes, he put them away. When he fell behind and some three-ball counts, he found a way to get some outs. It was very vintage Dallas."
A's starter Kendall Graveman (2-1) held the Astros to one run and five hits in five innings, but was pulled after throwing only 74 pitches. Trevor Plouffe, who made a pair of costly throwing errors at third base, homered in the ninth inning of Michael Feliz.
Graveman and A's manager Bob Melvin downplayed the right-hander's early exit, saying it was a precautionary move. Graveman is expected to make his next start. More >
"He just wasn't 100 percent loose," Melvin said. "On a cold night, if he didn't feel great, I just didn't feel like it was worth the risk."
Astros outfielder Josh Reddick, who spent 4 1/2 years in Oakland, made his return to the Coliseum and received a warm welcome, though he went 0-for-5 at the plate.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Aoki hustle pays off: After swatting a 404-foot homer, according to Statcast™, to tie the game in the fifth, Aoki beat out a high chopper at first base to score McCann with the go-ahead run in the sixth. Melvin challenged the call at first, looking for the third out of the inning, but the call stood and the Astros took the lead.
Aoki flexed his arms as he came into the dugout following the home run.
"He wanted to make sure we all recognize that he's plenty strong enough to hit the ball in the upper deck of this ballpark," Hinch said. "He got into it. It was fun to watch him. It was one of the biggest smiles I've seen on his face."
Error costly:The first of two throwing errors by Plouffe allowed Jose Altuve to score from second base in the seventh, but the gaffe was magnified three batters later when McCann shot a two-run double to right field to score a pair. All three runs given up that inning by Ryan Dull were unearned.
"I threw a ball four feet off the plate and he gets a double. That's one reason." -- Graveman on what makes Altuve so hard to retire
"I feel like there's a little bit of a leash on me right now. I don't think anybody wants to say it, but I'll say it. I'd like to get that harness taken off. It's early and I understand." -- Keuchel on coming out after 100 pitches
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve reached base five times Friday, stretching his streak of reaching base to 11 consecutive plate appearances. He walked in the first, singled in the fourth, doubled in the fifth and seventh and walked in the ninth to raise his average to .326. The team record is 13, by Bill Spiers in 1997. More >
Astros: Right-hander Lance McCullers makes his second start of the season when the Astros meet the A's at 3:05 p.m. CT Saturday at Oakland Coliseum. McCullers (1-0, 2.77 ERA) has struck out 17 batters and walked two in his first 13 innings this year.
Athletics: The A's and Astros are set to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day when they meet on Saturday (1:05 p.m. PT) on the 70th anniversary of Robinson's MLB debut. Players from both teams will be wearing No. 42 jerseys, as southpaw Sean Manaea (0-1, 7.15 ERA) aims to recapture the impressive form of his 2016 rookie season.
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Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com, based in the Bay Area.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.