HOUSTON (AP) — Barry Zito was thrilled to be back on a major league mound on Sunday, even if the results weren’t quite what he’d hoped for.
Called up from Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, Zito gave up two runs, two hits and a walk in the eighth inning in his first big league game since 2013 in Oakland’s 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros.
“Just being in spring training with them was awesome,” the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner said. “Obviously being able to be with the team during the regular season is huge. It’s a bonus for sure. I didn’t expect it. That’s an understatement.”
Colby Rasmus homered twice and George Springer added a two-run shot for the Astros to back a solid start by Collin McHugh.
Zito pitched in the majors for the first time since Sept. 29, 2013 and gave up Rasmus’ second homer. The 37-year-old lefty had spent the season in the minors after sitting out last year.
Zito extended a franchise record by being the 30th pitcher for Oakland this season and is the 23rd reliever the A’s have used.
“He had a good year in Triple-A,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Recently we’ve had some issues where we’ve used a lot of guys in the bullpen. He’s here for a reason. It’s not just because he’s Barry Zito. He’s pitched well for us this year and deserves to be here.”
Houston manager A.J. Hinch knows Zito well. Fifteen years ago on Sunday, Hinch was his batterymate for the Athletics against the Orioles.
“Barry and I go back a while, so it was nice to see him on the field,” Hinch said. “I told him before the series that I was proud of him for sticking it out.”
Zito isn’t sure what’s next, but is ready for whatever role he’s given.
“I’ve been building up my pitch count so I’ll be able throw whenever they need me,” he said. “Out of the ‘pen or if they need me to make a start, I feel like I can do that.”
Melvin enjoyed seeing him playing in an A’s uniform for the first time since Oct. 10, 2006, in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against Detroit.
“It is nice. You see him in the green and gold,” Melvin said. “He’s made a nice career out of pitching for this organization.”
Zito appeared in 24 games with 22 starts for Nashville this season, going 8-7 with a 3.46 ERA. He hopes he’ll get to start in Oakland this season.
“That would be incredible,” he said. “I’m sure the fans will be getting rowdy and stuff like that, so just got to stay in my game, not try to do too much.”
The Astros won their second in a row following a five-game skid that knocked them out of first place in the AL West. The win moved them within 1 1/2 games of Texas for first place, and they hold a 2½-game edge over the Angels for the second wild-card spot.
McHugh (17-7) allowed four hits and one run in eight innings, striking out eight in his fourth straight win.
The game was tied at 1 in the fifth before Springer’s two-out homer. It was the 14th home run this season for Springer, who has reached base safely in all 15 games since coming off the disabled list but hadn’t homered in his return.
Rasmus hit a solo homer in the second off Aaron Brooks (2-4) and a two-run drive off Zito in the eighth.
Marcus Semien drove in Oakland’s only run with a double in the second inning. Billy Butler tried to score on the hit and was thrown out at the plate.
The A’s threatened in the seventh when Stephen Vogt drew a walk with two outs and Jake Smolinski doubled. McHugh struck out, pumping his first as he slowly walked off the mound.
Athletics: Selected the contract of C Bryan Anderson with Josh Phegley out with a concussion after being hit in the back of the head during batting practice earlier this week. C Vogt is still recovering from a groin injury and was in the lineup for the first time, at designated hitter.
Astros: OF Carlos Gomez missed his eighth straight game with discomfort in his ribs. He’s improving and hit off a tee for the first time on Sunday.
Oakland is off on Monday before opening a series against Texas on Tuesday when Sean Nolin opposes Rangers LHP Martin Perez. Nolin is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 4.