HOUSTON — On the heels of solid starts from rotation mates Sean Manaea and Kendall Graveman, Oakland right-hander Jharel Cotton did something Sunday that not only maintained the momentum but served him well as he seeks consistency.
Cotton snapped a five-start winless streak by pitching effectively into the seventh inning and the Athletics salvaged the finale of their weekend series against the Houston Astros with a 3-2 victory at Minute Maid Park.
Cotton (6-10) allowed two runs, four hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
After surrendering a run on a sacrifice fly by Astros shortstop Alex Bregman in the third inning, Cotton retired eight straight batters before sidestepping trouble in the sixth.
Three batters after Marwin Gonzalez clubbed his 21st home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh, Cotton gave way to right-hander Chris Hatcher, who struck out George Springer with the tying run on third base to end the threat.
“I hammered that outside corner today,” said Cotton, whose last victory came June 23 against the Chicago White Sox. “I was consistently down in the zone and when I missed it wasn’t a big miss and it wasn’t up in the zone as much. So just hammering my fastball out there and just mixing speeds really well was the key today.”
The Athletics (54-70) scored twice against Astros right-hander Brad Peacock (10-2) in the first inning courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play.
After Boog Powell reached via a leadoff single, Marcus Semien bounced a ball to Bregman, whose throw to Altuve at second base sailed into right field and allowed Powell to score.
As Semien rounded second and closed in on third base, Gonzalez short hopped his throw past third baseman J.D. Davis and into left, enabling Semien to spring to his feet and scurry home.
“You just try to take advantage of the mistakes,” Semien said. “Boog did a really good job of hustling to second to put pressure on Bregman. As a shortstop, that’s tough when the guy at first is really fast it makes you rush a little bit. I just tried to get to third. Once I saw the throw going towards home, Marwin did a good job of cutting it off. But just very fortunate there.”
Peacock rallied to log 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned), seven hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. He suffered his first loss since June 9 against the Angels.
“Those things happen,” Peacock said of the misplays. “This is baseball. I just try to not let it get to me, try to do my job and go five or six innings.”
Oakland took a 3-1 lead in the sixth when second baseman Jed Lowrie reached on a single and later scored on a passed ball by catcher Juan Centeno. After shining defensively while winning the opening two games of the series, the Astros (76-48) were sloppy throughout the finale. It proved costly.
“The first inning is disappointing because they are plays we can make and do make,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We put ourselves in a hole. You think you’re going to have a higher scoring game or have the opportunity to get back into it. They did a really good job of keeping us pretty much in check.”
NOTES: Astros SS Carlos Correa will participate in batting practice on Tuesday, doing so for the first time since landing on the 10-day disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb on July 18. Correa took swings against a pitching machine. … Athletics C Bruce Maxwell was scratched from the lineup after taking a foul ball off his mask on Saturday night. While Maxwell did not show concussion-like symptoms, Oakland manager Bob Melvin opted for a conservative approach with his primary backstop. … Astros RHPs Will Harris (right shoulder inflammation) and Michael Feliz (right shoulder discomfort), as well as LHP Tony Sipp (right calf soreness), are scheduled to make rehab appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi on Tuesday. Astros C Evan Gattis (concussion) will do the same.