Brilliant Straily leads A’s past the Astros

OAKLAND COLISEUM — On a night where both starting pitchers were outstanding, a solo home run made the difference.

The A’s powered their way past the Houston Astros 2-1, led by A’s starter Dan Straily, who outperformed Astros starter Brett Olberholtzer (L, 4-2, 2.65 ERA) to propel the A’s to a 1-1/2 game lead in the AL West.

A Saturday night crowd of 20,340 watched Yoenis Cespedes crush his 22nd home run of the season to left-center field to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning to give Oakland the lead.

Despite struggling in his sophomore season, Cespedes is batting .393 in September, bouncing back from a solemn .216 in August.

Olberholtzer’s pitch to Cespedes was the only real mistake the Astros starter made all day.

Coming off of a complete-game shutout against the Seattle Mariners in his last start, the young lefty Olberholtzer continued to shine since joining the Houston rotation on July 31. He’s gone 4-2 with a 1.91 ERA over that span.

On Saturday against the A’s, Oberholtzer allowed seven hits, walked none, struck out five, and allowed just one run. He threw 100 pitches — 69 for strikes — on his way to an undeserved loss.

Astros manager Bo Porter was impressed with how his rookie continues to pitch well:

“[Oberholtzer] did a great job. He obviously left the one pitch up to Cespedes, and Cespedes put a charge in that pitch, but I feel like he did a tremendous job of battling and keeping us right there.”

But as good as Oberholtzer was, Dan Straily was simply better on Saturday.

Straily (W, 9-7, 4.15 ERA) threw seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk while striking out seven on 103 pitches.

Despite his brilliant performance, Straily was quick to credit his teammates for the win:

“At this stage of the season, it doesn’t matter what we do individually. It really doesn’t. … Everyone in this clubhouse – whether it’s a pinch-hit at-bat, running the bases, a defensive replacement at the end of the game, it doesn’t matter. We’re all here to get a win at the end of the day.”

Oakland added what turned out to be the deciding run in the seventh when Jed Lowrie launched a 1-2 pitch over the wall in center field off of reliever Josh Zeid. The A’s have now 43 home runs in their last 29 games to lead the majors.

Houston managed to scratch across a run in the top of the eighth off of Dan Otero when Brett Wallace doubled with one out and came in to score on a fielder’s choice by Brandon Barnes.

Barnes, though, was eventually thrown out trying to steal third ending the inning and the threat.

With Grant Balfour unavailable after throwing 35 pitches on Friday night, Sean Doolittle (4-5, 3.41 ERA) came in and got the four-out save, his first save of the year. Doolittle says he now understands teammate Grant Balfour a little bit more:

“I had some inner rage. Now I know why Balfour yells at himself so much. You definitely get a little bit of extra adrenaline, even more so than some of the pressure situations that we see in the seventh and eighth innings. It’s a different beast going out there trying to get a save.”

Notes

Straily improved to 3-0 in his last 3 starts after a career-high seven-start winless streak. … Doolittle earned his second career save and his first since July 12, 2012 vs. the Yankees. … Derek Norris tied a career high with three strikeouts. … Chris Young is now hitting .286 against Houston this year, compared to .173 against all other teams.