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Cole's record-setting gem wasted as bats stifled

Right-hander's 11 K's give him franchise-best 169 before All-Star break
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- The Astros' offense squandered a record-setting evening from Gerrit Cole.

Houston's fireballing righty hurled six scoreless innings before handing the A's over to the bullpen, which surrendered two RBIs on a solo homer and an RBI single to A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty's pair of runs doomed an Astros offense unable to reach third base in nine innings of Monday's 2-0 loss at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- The Astros' offense squandered a record-setting evening from Gerrit Cole.

Houston's fireballing righty hurled six scoreless innings before handing the A's over to the bullpen, which surrendered two RBIs on a solo homer and an RBI single to A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty's pair of runs doomed an Astros offense unable to reach third base in nine innings of Monday's 2-0 loss at Minute Maid Park.

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"I just move on to the next day," said Astros manager AJ Hinch of the lack of offense. "You play so many of these, you're going to have some times where their guys are pretty locked in."

Cole posted 11 strikeouts in his six frames, giving him 169 punchouts in 19 starts this season. Cole, who was named to the American League's All-Star pitching staff Sunday, surpassed Mike Scott (167 K's in 1986) to set a new Astros franchise record with 169 strikeouts before the All-Star break.

Video: OAK@HOU: Cole strikes out Fowler, the side in 3rd

"It's a special group of talented arms," Cole said. "It's kind of a fun stat. The second half is equally as important as the first. That's kind of when the big boys come out to play."

The Astros (61-32) collected just five hits against A's starter Frankie Montas en route to earning their first loss to the A's (51-40) since April 27. Houston, which had a six-game winning streak end Monday, was 8-0 against Oakland since the loss in late April prior to Monday.

Since the Astros swept the A's on June 12-15, Oakland has won an MLB-best 17 of 21 games.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Jose Altuve, who knocked the Astros' first hit against Montas with a fourth-inning single, took second base on a wild pitch before attempting to swipe third, too, which was to no avail as an overly aggressive play cost the Astros a run-scoring opportunity. Altuve was met with a tag well before reaching the bag from a hard throw by A's catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Altuve slammed his helmet on the ground in frustration as a chance fizzled.

Video: OAK@HOU: Lucroy nabs Altuve going from first to third

"Yeah, it's a mistake," Hinch said. "He knows it. He said it right away. He was overly anxious to do something positive -- get to third base with one out, which would've changed that inning [with Josh] Reddick up to bat. We weren't doing a ton against [Montas]. Marwin [Gonzalez] had a couple walks and Jose hit the single. It was an overly aggressive play that turned into a mistake."

SOUND SMART
With Cole's 11, Astros starting pitchers have recorded double-digit strikeouts in 19 total outings this season. The club has posted 19 or more K's by starters in only two others seasons: 1969 (24 games) and 1987 (20 games).

HE SAID IT
"I think all three of their guys pitched tremendously well. We see a little bit of how they've put it together on the mound. That's as good of a combo on the back end that you have. It's pretty electrifying stuff." -- Hinch, on the A's three pitchers Monday: Montas and relievers Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen

UP NEXT
The Astros will send ace Justin Verlander to the mound at 7:10 p.m. CT Tuesday against the A's at Minute Maid Park. In what's projected to be the best pitching matchup of their four-game series, the A's will counter with left-hander Sean Manaea. Verlander has two losses and two no-decisions, both of which were 10-strikeout games, in his last four starts (25 1/3 innings).

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole