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Harrell serves up three homers in loss to A's

HOUSTON -- A move to the American League or not, the Astros weren't predicted to win a great number of games in 2013.

So a poor start to the season may have been expected for a franchise that is committed to developing young talent.

On Sunday at Minute Maid Park, the Astros experienced growing pains. Little went right for the Astros, who lost to the A's, 9-3. The loss extended Houston's losing streak to five games as it concluded its homestand with a 1-5 mark.

"Nobody's going to feel sorry for you," said Astros manager Bo Porter.

Astros right-hander Lucas Harrell (0-2) wasn't feeling sorry for himself after allowing three home runs and failing to get out of the fifth inning on Sunday.

By the time Chris Young's three-run home run in the fifth inning chased Harrell from the game, the Astros were down 8-0.

"When you don't throw the ball where you want to, it's going to be a long day," said Harrell. "I didn't locate it. It wasn't with me today."

Scoring twice in the sixth inning and once in the eighth wasn't enough for the Astros, who struck out 14 more times on Sunday, giving them 74 strikeouts in only six games and a batting average of .199.

As ineffective as Harrell was, Oakland starter Brett Anderson (1-1) was the opposite. The left-hander tied a career high with 10 strikeouts. Both his runs allowed were unearned. In six innings, Anderson allowed five hits and two walks.

"He had a slider and curveball going and he was spotting his fastball pretty good," said Astros designated hitter Chris Carter. "It's tough when he can throw four pitches whenever he wants, on any count."

Carter provided one of the rare highlights for the Astros, who managed only six hits. Carter, who reached base safely twice, hit his first Major League triple to lead off the bottom of the eighth off Pat Neshek. Carter's triple to left-center hit just under the yellow home run line.

"When I hit it, I thought it was a deep fly ball," said Carter, who also walked. "I didn't think it was that far, but it carried."

The ball was really carrying for the A's, who got home runs from Jed Lowrie in the third and Coco Crisp in the fourth. Crisp homered in all three games in the series in which Oakland outscored Houston, 23-9.

"We've done everything well," said Lowrie, "We've pitched well, played good defense and hit well."

"Any time you come in and sweep a series it's good," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "At the end of the day, we'll take three wins any time."

Oakland had 11 hits as it improved to 5-2. Lowrie had three hits and has 11 home runs in 50 career games at Minute Maid Park. Young, who played his high school ball in the Houston area, has a .405 (30-for-74) career average at Minute Maid.

"Look at the Oakland Athletics and the way they went about the series," said Porter. "They kept the line moving, they made our pitchers work. They got in deep counts. Those guys put good swings on it."

Harrell was in trouble starting with the second inning as Seth Smith's two-run double opened the scoring.

In 4 1/3 innings, Harrell allowed eight runs and seven hits with five walks and two strikeouts.

Asked how he'd pitch the A's differently the next time they played, Harrell said, "don't leave the ball up."

Control problems plagued Harrell, who threw 79 pitches through three innings. He threw 112 pitches total.

"If you don't attack the strike zone, you're going to find yourself behind in counts, deep counts and your pitch count is going to climb, and climb fast," said Porter. "That's pretty much what happened to Lucas today."

In the three-game series, Oakland had 56 at-bats with five or more pitches thrown.

The Astros scored two runs in the sixth inning on a two-out throwing error by Lowrie at shortstop. Lowrie fielded a hot shot off the bat of Matt Dominguez, but his high throw over first baseman Brandon Moss allowed Justin Maxwell and J.D. Martinez to score.

Maxwell reached base three times on two walks and a single. He has at least one hit in his last four games and in five of the team's six games.

The Astros wasted a scoring chance in the fifth inning when Anderson struck out Jose Altuve for the third out with two runners on base. Altuve, who had hit safely in the team's first five games, went 0-for-4.

Richard Dean is a reporter for
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