HOUSTON (AP) — Entering the season there were questions about the power in an Oakland lineup that had lost Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson in the last year.
On Monday night against Houston, three new members of the Athletics all showed an ability to fill that void.
Billy Butler hit a three-run homer and Marcus Semien and Brett Lawrie connected to back a solid start by Scott Kazmir and give the Athletics an 8-1 win over the Astros.
“It’s been great,” manager Bob Melvin said of an offense that is tied for second in the majors with 51 runs. “I’ve said here often you look at our record, you look at what our offense has done, it’s probably not indicative of what it should be but we know our pitching is going to come around.”
Lawrie, who is in his first season with the A’s after four seasons in Toronto, loves his new lineup.
“For the most part it’s just confidence knowing that anyone who steps in the box can do some damage,” he said.
Kazmir (2-0) allowed three hits and one run while striking out eight in six innings.
The Athletics scored three runs in the first inning before Lawrie’s solo shot in second made it 4-0. Semien added a solo homer in the fifth inning before Butler’s first home run this season pushed it to 8-1 later in the inning.
Butler has hit safely in each game this season and has the only eight-game hitting streak in the American League.
Jose Altuve had three hits of Houston’s five hits, including a home run in the fourth inning.
Houston starter Scott Feldman (0-2) yielded 10 hits and eight runs — seven earned — in five innings for the loss.
He was replaced by Asher Wojciechowski, who was scheduled to start Tuesday night, for the sixth inning. Wojciechowski gave up two hits in four scoreless innings.
The A’s got things going early when leadoff batter Sam Fuld reached on an error by Jonathan Villar. Mark Canha followed with an RBI double and reached third on another error by Villar. Canha has hit safely in each of the first six games of his career.
A double by Ben Zobrist, who finished with three hits, scored Canha before a one-out RBI single by Ike Davis made it 3-0. Feldman finally escaped the inning when Stephen Vogt grounded into a double play.
Lawrie sent the first pitch of the second inning over the wall in center field to extend the lead to 4-0.
Kazmir was perfect through the first three innings but Altuve homered to start the fourth. Kazmir walked consecutive batters after that, but Chris Carter grounded into a double play before he retired Evan Gattis to limit the damage.
Semien’s homer to the Crawford Boxes to start the fifth inning made it 5-1. Butler’s home run came with one out in the inning to push Oakland’s advantage to 8-1.
The Astros had a chance to cut the lead in the sixth inning when they had runners on first and second with two outs, but Gattis struck out to end the inning. Gattis got his first hit since a homer on Sept. 6 with a single to start Houston’s ninth. That hit snapped an 0-for-37 skid with 17 strikeouts, including an 0 for 23 slump with 13 Ks this season.
“It’s a step in the right direction — a small victory,” Gattis said.
Athletics: The A’s are close to being done with a cold bug that has been making its way across the team since the start of the season. The illness even hit Melvin who said on Monday that it was the first day he’d felt good in about 10 days. He added that reliever Fernando Abad was still dealing with the issue.
Astros: Houston starter Brett Oberholtzer, who opened the season on the disabled list with a blister on his left index finger, played long toss on Monday without a bandage on his finger for the first time since he was injured.
Altuve, who became the first Astro to win a batting title last season by hitting .341, on if he’s giving advice to his teammates who are struggling offensively: “I think it’s too early to go say something ... you can’t let that get in your mind. It’s only 20 at-bats. I think we are OK.”
Athletics: Oakland right-hander Kendall Graveman will look to bounce back in his second start after struggling in a loss in his major league debut on Thursday. He allowed seven hits and eight runs in 3 1-3 innings to become the fourth pitcher in Oakland history to allow eight or more runs in his debut with the team.
Astros: Right-hander Brad Peacock (right hip surgery) will be activated from the disabled list to start on Tuesday night. Wojciechowski was optioned to Triple-A Fresno after the game to make room on the roster for Peacock.