OAKLAND -- In a span of five pitches in the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, Max Stassi and Derek Fisher combined to hit 861 feet of home runs off Daniel Mengden, igniting the Astros' bats to a sweep of the A's.Mengden, the former Astros Draft pick who grew up in Houston,
OAKLAND -- In a span of five pitches in the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, Max Stassi and Derek Fisher combined to hit 861 feet of home runs off Daniel Mengden, igniting the Astros' bats to a sweep of the A's.
Mengden, the former Astros Draft pick who grew up in Houston, was outdueling Gerrit Cole through 6 2/3 scoreless innings before Stassi and Fisher crushed back-to-back solo homers to give Houston the lead in a 4-1 win at Oakland Coliseum.
"Those were two big ones, especially the bottom of our order," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We've talked about that being a big part of our offense and then seeing those guys come through at a time where Gerrit [gave up a run in the sixth] by mere inches on a double down the line was a big response by us."
The Astros (24-15), who improved to 5-1 against the A's and 14-6 on the road this season, got three perfect innings of relief from Joe Smith, Will Harris and Ken Giles (fifth save) after the relievers threw four scoreless innings Tuesday.
"Everyone's clicking at the right time, and we're going to take advantage of that right now," Giles said.
Stassi, the backup catcher who threw out a runner trying to steal second base in the first inning, clubbed a 2-2 pitch off Mengden (2-4) and sent it 414 feet to the opposite field to tie the game in the seventh. Fisher then destroyed an 0-2 pitch and sailed it high over the center-field wall for a 447-foot homer that put the Astros ahead, 2-1.
"You don't see many balls hit up in that part of the ballpark," Hinch said.
Fisher's blast is the third-farthest homer of the year for the Astros, behind Springer's 462-foot homer on Monday and Springer's 455-foot blast on April 16. It's the longest homer of Fisher's young career.
"Just trying to hit the ball hard, you know?" Fisher said. "Stassi came up big. Mengden was throwing the ball well, and that was a big spot for our team. That was the biggest swing of the night with Stassi hitting that homer and tying it up and getting the momentum back in our favor."
Yuli Gurriel added a two-run double in the eighth that pushed Houston ahead, 4-1, and extended his hitting streak to a career-high-tying 11 games. Mengden allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Cole (4-1), coming off a 16-strikeout, one-hitter against the D-backs on Friday, pitched six innings in his shortest start of the season, allowing one run, four hits and three walks while striking out nine batters. He threw 101 pitches, including a 99-mph fastball to strike out Matt Chapman and strand runners at first and second on his final pitch of the day.
"I kind of left it all out there," Cole said. "I was a little sluggish today for whatever reason … a bunch of different variables. I found my command which is what was suffering the most and was able to just navigate through it."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Cole has been working hard this year at holding runners better and not allowing as many stolen bases, which is why he was so pleased to see Stassi throw out Matt Joyce at second base in the first inning after a one-out walk for a strikeout-caught-stealing double play. That was only the second runner Astros catchers have thrown out trying to steal this year.
"That was nice," Cole said. "I gave him a quick leg and am trying to vary the hold, vary the times. It was a good pitch to throw the guy out on. I challenged Jed Lowrie fastball up and away, and Max put it right on the money. That was big, saved us some pitches."
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who has stolen at least 30 bases in six consecutive seasons, swiped his second base of the year in the eighth inning. That snapped a career-long streak of 34 consecutive games sans a steal.
HE SAID IT
"Boy, did he finish strong. That showed a lot of what he's about when he can reach back a little bit and get to the finish line." -- Hinch, on Cole
The Astros open a three-game series against the Rangers at 7:10 p.m. CT Friday at Minute Maid Park, sending Justin Verlander (4-1, 1.17 ERA) to the mound. Verlander, coming off his first loss of the season, has gone 9-1 with a 1.13 ERA with 113 strikeouts, 16 walks and 44 hits allowed in 87 2/3 innings in 13 regular-season starts with the Astros, dating back to last season. Cole Hamels will start for Texas. They have combined for 340 wins.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.