HOUSTON — Thrust into relief, Asher Wojciechowski delivered for the Houston Astros on Monday night.
Wojciechowski, who was scheduled to start Tuesday, pitched four scoreless innings in an 8-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics, giving the Houston bullpen much-needed rest a day after an extra-innings win over Texas.
“From that vantage point, he was the player of the game,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
However clutch, the unscheduled outing came with a price for Wojciechowski: He was optioned to Triple-A Fresno after the game, a necessary move for the Astros to make room on the roster for Brad Peacock to come off the disabled list for Tuesday’s start.
Wojciechowski took it in stride.
“We need some arms up here, and it’s just part of it,” he said.
Wojciechowski took over for right-hander Scott Feldman (0-2) to start the sixth and shut out the A’s. Showing good velocity and commanding an effective breaking ball, he limited the A’s to just two hits the rest of the way. He struck out four and walked one.
“I was glad with how I pitched with the circumstances with how that unfolded,” Wojciechowski said. “You’d much rather have us win, but I was glad with the way I competed tonight.”
Feldman allowed three home runs and didn’t get much run support.
Billy Butler hit a three-run homer and Marcus Semien and Brett Lawrie connected to back a solid start by Scott Kazmir (2-0) for Oakland. Kazmir 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 one-run 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.
Altuve had three hits of Houston’s five hits, including a solo home run in the fourth inning.
Feldman yielded 10 hits and eight runs — seven earned — in five innings for the loss.
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.
Gattis would have preferred the win, but getting his first hit as an Astro after struggling at the plate was a weight off his shoulders.
“It’s a step in the right direction — a small victory,” he 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 manager Bob 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.
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: Peacock (right hip surgery) will be activated from the disabled list to start on Tuesday night.
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