Both teams enter the third meeting of the American League West rivals off a win after scuffling a bit of late.
While the Astros were earning a split in Colorado with a 4-1 victory over the Rockies on Wednesday afternoon, the A's were securing a series win over the visiting Boston Red Sox with a second straight win, 6-5
Oakland had lost eight in a row overall and four straight to the Red Sox over an 11-day stretch before a 3-0 victory on Tuesday night ended both those skids.
Now they must deal with an Astros team that has dominated a pair of earlier three-game series against Oakland, sweeping both by a total score of 31-9
Those games were in May, and Oakland manager Mark Kotsay has seen his last-place team do some good things since, including pulling out a series-ending win over the Red Sox on Wednesday despite committing four errors.
"We haven't won too many games when we haven't been clean (defensively)," Kotsay said. "It was a tough day defensively. But we kept grinding. That's the mentality -- that's the identity -- this team wants to have. They want to play hard and they play hard, and those are good signs for our future."
One of the few things that went right for the A's in their earlier meetings with the Astros was an outing by left-hander Hogan Harris (2-3, 6.51 ERA), who pitched arguably his best game of the season as a bulk-inning reliever on May 27. He limited Houston to one hit in five shutout innings during a game Oakland eventually lost 6-3
The A's have lost in each of his last five appearances, three of which were starts. In the other two, Harris served in a bulk-innings reliever role. The rookie has gone 0-3 with an 8.03 ERA over that stretch.
The Astros have lined up a rookie of their own, J.P. France (4-3, 3.31 ERA), for the series opener. The 28-year-old right-hander is unbeaten in his past three starts. Supported by 27 total runs, he went 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA in outings against the St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado and the Los Angeles Angels
He has never faced the A's.
France won't necessarily benefit, but reinforcements appear to be on their way for the Astros, who have been missing Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley, then saw ace Framber Valdez leave his latest start with a calf issue
Valdez passed inspection on Wednesday and remains slotted to start the Friday game in Oakland.
Alvarez, after a delay in his training schedule caused by an illness, began a rehab assignment with at Triple-A Sugar Land on Wednesday. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
Alvarez, who has been out since June 9 due to a strained right oblique, hasn't been ruled out of the Oakland series. He could provide an immediate boost to a club that has been held to three or fewer runs in five of its past nine games.
"If he's really looking good and he's having quality ABs, we should see him back here with no problem at all," Houston general manager Dana Brown said. "The big thing is he has to get his wind back. He was under the weather a little bit, but if he gets his wind back, he should be fine."
--Field Level Media