Houston's Framber Valdez (7-6, 2.76 ERA) and Oakland's JP Sears (1-6, 3.99), a pair of six-game losers despite respectable ERAs, are scheduled to duel one night after J.P. France and Hogan Harris put on a nice show on the mound.
The Astros' France prevailed in the series-opening pitchers' duel, getting a two-run, go-ahead double from Kyle Tucker and a solo home run from Alex Bregman in a 3-1 win
Valdez will try to give the Astros a third straight win overall after having been a bit questionable following his last start, a loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday. He left that contest in the seventh inning with a calf issue
A bullpen session earlier this week in Colorado helped the Houston ace convince manager Dusty Baker the ailment was nothing more than a cramp.
"I felt a little pull there when I threw that pitch to (Shohei) Ohtani, my left leg," said Valdez, whose reaction at the time caught the attention of veteran catcher Martin Maldonado. "I don't know if it was exhaustion or dehydration or what, but I felt like I pulled something there, something tight."
Whatever it was, he worked out his problems in the five days between starts. Now he'll try to avoid a seventh loss, which would equal his career high set in 2019.
Valdez finished each of the past two seasons with six losses, but in each case with an ERA higher than his current 2.76 -- 3.14 in 2021, when he was 11-6, and 2.82 last season, when he went 17-6.
He has allowed two or fewer earned runs 12 times this season but took a loss in three of those outings and a no-decision on three other occasions.
The good news for Valdez is he's had no such problems against the A's this season, dominating them in two previous meetings. The first was a four-hit shutout in a 2-0 home win on May 21. Six days later, he held the A's to one run and four hits over six innings in a 6-3 road win.
The 29-year-old has gone 4-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 11 career meetings (nine starts) against the A's.
Sears didn't get a decision the only previous time he faced the Astros this season -- a 3-2 Houston win on May 20 -- despite limiting the hosts to five hits and two runs in six innings
The 27-year-old will be making his second career start (third appearance) against the Astros, having gone 0-0 with a 4.00 ERA in earlier meetings. Sears got a no-decision at Houston on May 20 after yielding two runs in six innings
Sears is winless in his past six starts, going 0-3 despite a respectable 3.68 ERA. He has been especially snake-bitten in July, as he has yet to pick up a decision despite producing a 1.93 ERA in three starts against the Detroit, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins.
Overall this season, he has just one win to show for 10 starts in which he allowed two or fewer runs.
A's manager Mark Kotsay left the ballpark Thursday night confident his team's defeat in the series opener wouldn't have any carryover effects.
"This is a good team," he said of the Astros. "Overall it was a well-pitched game and well played defensively. We just couldn't get the big hit.
--Field Level Media