OAKLAND, Calif. — Any questions the Houston Astros had about Gerrit Cole‘s ability to bounce back from his first career shutout were answered when the right-hander pumped a 99.4 mph fastball past Matt Chapman for a strikeout.
And that was on Cole’s final pitch of the afternoon.
Cole struck out nine to raise his major league-leading total to 86, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 4-1 Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.
"I kind of left it all out there," Cole said. "I was a little sluggish today for a bunch of different variables. Found enough command, which was what was really suffering the most, and I was able to navigate through it."
Cole (4-1) allowed one run, four hits and three walks in six innings. His 1.43 ERA is second in the major leagues behind the 1.17 of teammate Justin Verlander.
It wasn’t as crisp as Cole’s previous start, when he struck out a career-high 16 and threw 114 pitches in a one-hitter Arizona. Cole pitched through the lulls and came up big when he needed to, especially before he was removed.
"He knows when the end of his outing is coming, he knows he’s got runners on base and he’s going to empty his tank there," Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. "That’s why he’s really good. He’s got the ability to stay competitive in the mid-90s and then reach back for the high 90s. There’s a single digit on your hand (for) how many guys can do that."
Max Stassi and Derek Fisher hit consecutive home runs with two outs in the seventh off Daniel Mengden (2-4) for a 2-1 lead, and Yuli Gurriel added a two-run double against Yusmiero Petit that extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Houston has won 10 of its last 12 road games. Oakland was outscored 25-5 in the series and outhit 42-18.
"It’s always good to win before the off day, let alone sweep," Stassi said. "When you get a sweep, everyone seems to enjoy it a little more."
Jose Altuve doubled twice and had three hits. George Springer, who had eight hits over a stretch of nine at-bats in the first two games, went 1 for 4.
Joe Smith and Will Harris followed Cole, and Ken Giles pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save and second in two days. Before Tuesday, Giles had not pitched since allowing four runs in the ninth inning of a May 1 loss to the New York Yankees.
Mengden gave up two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He is winless in six starts against the Astros.
"One or two swings can beat you, and that’s what happened," A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "He was cruising along nicely though, against a really good lineup."
Jed Lowrie’s RBI double put the A’s ahead in the sixth.
Houston had only three runners before Stassi’s third home run of the season, his first since April 19. Fisher hit his second homer in three days, sending an 0-2 pitch into the second deck in centre. The drive would have gone 447 feet unimpeded, according to MLB Statcast.
"You don’t see many balls hit up in that part of the ballpark," Hinch said. "He’s got a ton of power and athleticism and can do some damage."
Oakland’s Stephen Piscotty singled and made a sparking defensive play with a sliding catch in foul territory during his second game back following the death of his mother from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He is expected to be placed on the bereavement list soon.
Athletics: RHP Trevor Cahill was placed on the 10-day DL with a right elbow impingement. Cahill had a career-high 12 strikeouts in his most recent start. … OF Dustin Fowler was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento.
Astros: Verlander (4-1) will start Friday against Texas on regular rest and Charlie Morton is being pushed back.
Athletics: RHP Kendall Graveman (0-5) is expected to be recalled up from Triple-A Nashville to start Friday at the New York Yankees.