While improving to 9-3 in September and moving one win closer to securing the best record in the American League, the Houston Astros utilized a different path of success against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
Houston (93-50), which will host the Oakland A’s for a four-game series starting Thursday, completed a sweep of its three-game road series and seven-game season series sweep of the Tigers with a 2-1 victory.
The result bore little resemblance to the Astros’ three previous games, all wins, during which Houston amassed 25 runs while bashing eight home runs.
While right-hander Cristian Javier did his part in producing the Astros’ third consecutive quality start, the offense used small ball to complement the home run Kyle Tucker slugged in providing Houston its first run in the finale.
The Astros parlayed two walks, a sacrifice bunt from Jeremy Pena and a sacrifice fly from Alex Bregman into the decisive second run against the Tigers. Houston proved it can execute its way to victory as easily as it can mash the ball.
“You’ve got to win those kind of games,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “You’re not going to beat up everybody every day and score a bunch of runs. You’ve got to win some 2-1 and 3-2 and just find a way to win.
“Sometimes you’ve got to play that kind of game.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.20 ERA) will for Houston on Thursday. He has won both of his starts this month, allowing four runs on 10 hits and five walks with 13 strikeouts over 12 2/3 innings in a pair of victories over the Los Angeles Angels.
McCullers has surrendered more than two earned runs once in five starts this season, doing so in a 6-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves when he allowed three runs in five innings on Aug. 19.
McCullers is 7-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 career starts against the Athletics. After missing the first 114 games of this season with a right flexor strain, McCullers made his 2022 debut against Oakland and allowed two hits and four walks while recording five strikeouts over six scoreless innings in a 8-0 home victory on Aug. 13.
Right-hander James Kaprielian (3-9, 4.79 ERA) has the starting assignment for Oakland. He has logged four losing decisions over his past five starts, pitching to a 6.46 ERA and a .874 opponents’ OPS with 16 walks against 19 strikeouts over 23 2/3 innings. Kaprielian had won three decisions over the previous seven starts with a 2.33 ERA and a .600 opponents’ OPS.
Kaprielian has faced the Astros once previously, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings of relief on Oct. 2, 2021, in a 10-4 Oakland loss.
The Athletics (52-91) won for just the second time in eight games on Wednesday, rallying for two runs in the top of the ninth inning to stun the Texas Rangers 8-7 in Arlington. Oakland, which trailed 7-4 after five innings, completed the comeback by saddling Texas reliever Jose Leclerc with his first blown save this season.
“At the end of the day, I was able to put up a good swing and help the team win,” said Oakland third baseman Vimael Machin, who tied the game with a ninth-inning double and soon scored the winning run on an error. “That’s what matters.”