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Martes bends, doesn't break to earn 2nd win

MLB.com

OAKLAND -- Astros starter Francis Martes continued to show why he's ranked the team's top prospect.

Martes went 5 2/3 innings against the A's on Tuesday night, allowing three runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out four on 75 pitches. The Astros gave him a five-run cushion in the first and won, 8-4, at the Coliseum.

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OAKLAND -- Astros starter Francis Martes continued to show why he's ranked the team's top prospect.

Martes went 5 2/3 innings against the A's on Tuesday night, allowing three runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out four on 75 pitches. The Astros gave him a five-run cushion in the first and won, 8-4, at the Coliseum.

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"It's the most confident situation for any pitcher, when you're pitching with the lead," Martes said. "You're not going to throw strikes right down the middle, but you can challenge hitters."

In just his second Major League start, Martes found the solid Oakland offense difficult to navigate, giving up a run in the first, third and fourth inninga. But Houston's No. 1 prospect shined when the A's put runners in scoring position, holding Oakland to 0-for-6 on the night with runners in scoring position.

Video: HOU@OAK: Martes strikes out Healy swinging

He had three strikeouts with runners in scoring position, including two when the A's had a runner on second with one out in the fifth. With the batter representing the tying run, Martes struck out Chad Pinder swinging and got Jed Lowrie looking, which Astros manager A.J. Hinch was happy to see.

"He navigated his way through a couple of innings where he chipped away," Hinch said. "He would always control the innings by getting some big outs. In the fifth, when he got the big breaking ball out to Lowrie on 3-2, that was another dramatic at-bat that he won."

Across his three appearances, the 21-year-old has thrown 14 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on 13 hits and seven walks. He's 2-0 and has struck out 13 batters, getting 11 swinging strikeouts.

"His stuff plays. In the strike zone, his stuff plays, especially in the big moments," Hinch said. "If he's got multiple ways to get guys out, he's very tough to hit. He's a mild-mannered kid, he keeps his emotions in check, but it looks like he can handle the big moments."

Martes could be optioned back to Triple-A Fresno when Lance McCullers Jr. (lower back discomfort) returns to the rotation Saturday in Seattle. But with right-hander Brad Peacock and his wife, Stephanie, expecting a child soon, Martes may be used Sunday if Peacock goes on paternity leave. Regardless of what happens next, catcher Brian McCann has been impressed with how he's looked.

"He's getting put right into the fire and he's responding, which is nice to see," McCann said. "You look at his demeanor and he expects to be here. He expects to get outs. He's doing everything that he expects to do. He wants to come up here and make a name for himself. He's throwing the ball extremely well."

Alex Simon is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Astros on Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter at @alexsimon99.

Houston Astros, Francis Martes