Martin Maldonado finished a single shy of hitting for the cycle, and the Houston Astros slugged five home runs to salvage the finale of their showdown series with the Oakland Athletics with a 9-4 victory on Sunday in Oakland, Calif.
The Astros moved back ahead of Oakland by one game in the American League West after the Athletics pulled even by claiming the opening two games of the three-game weekend set.
Houston rallied from an early two-run deficit with a four-run third inning. After Oakland pulled even in the bottom of the third, the Astros flipped the power switch again in the top of the fourth inning.
Right-hander Justin Verlander (12-8) was the beneficiary of the power surge, recording his 200th career victory in the process. Verlander allowed three home runs, two to Athletics designated hitter Khris Davis, and didn’t survive the sixth inning, but the run support he received was ample.
Davis provided the Athletics a 2-0 lead in the first with his 35th home run following a solo shot to dead center field from third baseman Matt Chapman, his 17th. Davis added his 36th home run in the fourth, a two-run shot that plated Nick Martini and erased the Astros’ 4-2 lead.
Houston, however, did not relent and chased Oakland starter Sean Manaea (11-9) when the first three batters reached to open the fifth. Maldonado tripled and scored when George Springer roped a single that deflected off Chapman and into shallow left field for a 6-4 lead.
Maldonado, Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez hit homers off Oakland right-hander Emilio Pagan in the seventh. Bregman matched Evan Gattis, who homered in the fourth off Manaea, for the team lead with his 24th dinger. Maldonado clubbed his seventh homer to complement his third career triple, and Gonzalez went deep for the 11th time.
Maldonado sparked the four-run rally in the third with a two-out double, and he scored when Bregman followed a single by Springer with a run-scoring single. Yuli Gurriel then added a 404-foot, three-run homer to left field that set the tone for the Astros’ success against Manaea. It was Gurriel’s eighth homer.
Manaea allowed six runs on nine hits with five strikeouts over four innings. Verlander surrendered four runs on seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.
—Field Level Media