HOUSTON -- Lance McCullers flirted with a perfect game, retiring the first 15 Oakland batters he faced, and Derek Fisher, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez homered in Houston's decisive 11-0 win on Saturday at Minute Maid Park that evened the three-game series.Staked to an early lead, McCullers was
HOUSTON -- Lance McCullers flirted with a perfect game, retiring the first 15 Oakland batters he faced, and Derek Fisher, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez homered in Houston's decisive 11-0 win on Saturday at Minute Maid Park that evened the three-game series.
Staked to an early lead, McCullers was brilliant. The right-hander did not allow a hit until Mark Canha singled up the middle leading off the sixth, the A's first baserunner of the game. McCullers allowed only two hits with no walks over seven scoreless innings. He struck out seven.
"When he's in the strike zone, he can throw any pitch and get outs," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "And he can be dominant because of the electric stuff that he has."
A 13-hit attack didn't hurt matters for McCullers (4-1), who, through five perfect innings, had five ground-ball outs, five fly-ball outs and five strikeouts. Of his 100 pitches, 65 were for strikes.
"I got my strikeouts when I needed them, I got my strikeouts when they presented themselves," McCullers said. "And because the offense did such a great job, I was able to throw some 2-0 challenge heaters, and that helped me keep my pitch count down."
Altuve had four hits for the 26th time in his career and was a triple shy of the cycle, and Carlos Correa extended his hitting streak to 12 games with an eighth-inning single. The American League West-leading Astros have won eight of their last 11 games.
The Astros had a season high in runs and home runs, snapping Oakland's six-game win streak against them.
The Astros, who tallied runs in each of the first four innings, scored three runs in the first off Daniel Mengden, who had allowed only one run in each of his previous two starts. Mengden was done after 2 1/3 innings and 57 pitches.
Springer led off the sixth with a homer to left field, and Altuve followed with a shot of his own to left. Both came off Wilmer Font, as did Gonzalez's an inning later.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
In the first inning, the Astros loaded the bases with no outs. Springer and Altuve scored on sacrifice flies, and Correa came around on Alex Bregman's double off the wall in right-center to make it 3-0.
"When we're coming back from a game like yesterday [8-1 loss], when we couldn't score a lot of runs, we show up and are ready to swing the bat," Altuve said. "That's what we did. Springer setting the tone and three runs in the first inning -- that's a good start."
The home runs by Springer and Altuve in the sixth was the first time the Astros have hit back-to-back homers this season. The last time the Astros accomplished that was against Oakland last year on Aug. 18, when Bregman and Altuve went back-to-back.
HE SAID IT
"We controlled the zone and when he made a mistake, a lot of guys tonight didn't miss it. He's good when he's on, and for us to get to him early was huge." -- Springer, on the Astros knocking Mengden out in the third inning
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Astros were successful in challenging a tag play that extended the second inning. Altuve was ruled out at second base trying to stretch an RBI single into a double, but the call was overturned. The Astros did not add to their scoring that inning after the replay review.
Gerrit Cole brings his 1.29 ERA into Minute Maid Park for the finale of a three-game series against Oakland on Sunday starting at 1:10 p.m. CT. Acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, Cole joined Dallas Keuchel as the only pitchers in club history to throw seven innings or more while allowing two runs or fewer in each of his first five starts of a season. Trevor Cahill will get the call for the A's.
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.