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Game Thread #118: A's vs. Astros

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A game behind Texas in the AL West standings, the A's look to make up ground while playing against the AL West's other team from the Lone Star State.

From this angle, Bartolo actually looks ripped. If you squint.
From this angle, Bartolo actually looks ripped. If you squint.
Thearon W. Henderson

Well, we've arrived: tonight marks the first A's game of the 2013 season that will be played on turf that's been subjected to the abuse of the Oakland Raiders. Also, the grass has been subjected to the abuse of watching the Raiders play! So with patches of dead grass in center field and gridiron marks stretching from bullpen to bullpen, the A's will try to take advantage of a team in a vastly more pathetic situation: the Houston Astros.

Bo Porter's squad sports by far the worst record in baseball right now. Their 37-80 mark is good for a .316 winning percentage and a spot in the AL West cellar, a cool 30 and 31 games behind Oakland and Texas, respectively. As you know, much of that misery has been inflicted by this very A's squad, one that's won 11 of the first 12 meetings between the two clubs.

The 11th of those meetings took place on July 24, and that's the one that we'd all like to forget. Grant Balfour recorded his first blown save since April of 2012 and the A's gave away a win at Minute Maid Park with poor defense, among many other things. But the A's came back the next day to take the series and continue their dominance of this Houston team, which they hope to continue tonight.

Bartolo Colon gets the nod for the A's after an anomalous dud of a start last Wednesday in Cincinnati in which he lasted only 2.2 innings, allowed seven hits, and gave up 5 runs. But Bartolo was apparently feeling the affects of a stomach illness during that start, and his numbers on the year are still stellar - he's 14-4 with a 2.75 ERA, so it's nothing to worry about.

Astros starter Jordan Lyles, despite putting together a nice run earlier in the year during which his ERA fell to an encouraging 3.87, has fallen on some hard times lately. In his last five starts, he's 0-5 with an 8.49 ERA, and didn't escape any of his last three starts without surrendering at least nine hits.

Bob Melvin is going with a modified lefty lineup against the right-handed Lyles, but his usual all-out platooning style is being cramped by Coco Crisp's recent wrist injury, meaning that the right-handed Chris Young will get a rare start against a right-handed pitcher. He's leading off and playing center field. Derek Norris is out too, and though he wouldn't normally be in the lineup against a righty either, his absence (combined with that of John Jaso, who's still on the DL for a concussion) makes Josh Donaldson the backup catcher tonight behind Stephen Vogt, so watch out for that.

It should be a nice night for baseball at the Coliseum, with Oakland temperatures that peaked in the mid 70s today dipping to the low 60s by 9pm. Let's win this one! Because this is the kind of game that playoff teams really should win.