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Two Astros Bombs Just Enough to Squeak Past Oakland, 4-3.

Plus great starting pitching and back-end bullpen work give the Astros sole possession of first place in the AL

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros beat the A’s at their own game tonight. They won with great pitching and just enough offense to win a tight game, the way the A’s have won all season.

Luis Garcia staked another claim on rookie of the year, but in the first inning it didn’t quite look that way, as he became another of All-Star Matt Olson’s many victims this year. With two outs Olson took Garcia yard with a long ball to deep right field.

It would be the last run allowed by Garcia through five complete innings.

Meanwhile, the Astros could not touch June’s pitcher of the month Sean Manaea until the third inning. Abraham Toro led off the inning by getting to second base on an error by third baseman Chad Pinder, filling in tonight for Matt Chapman. Toro would advance to third on a Myles Straw single, and with one out Jose Altuve struck the decisive blow of the game, a three-run homer high above the Crawford Boxes.

Manaea had two perfect innings before the error to Toro, but pitching out of the stretch seemed to take Manaea slightly off his game. He allowed only two other baserunners before leaving the game with two outs in the seventh.

Meanwhile, Garcia shut down the A’s, going five complete innings, allowing only two hits, two walks, with seven K’s. He pitched brilliantly out of trouble in the fifth.

With runners on second and third and two outs, he struck out the very tough Tony Kemp, throwing a changeup for a strike on 3-1, a cutter for a foul on 3-2, and getting the called strike three on a perfect change at the very bottom of the zone.

However, in the sixth inning, Cristian Javier blew Garcia’s chance for the win by allowing two runs.

It could have been much worse.

Elvis Andrus started the inning with a towering homer way over the Crawford Boxes. This was followed by a Matt Olson walk, a Ramon Laureano single, and a Jed Lowrie single to load the bases.

Javier then gave the A’s their third run to tie the game with a wild pitch. The A’s still had runners on second and third with no outs.

And then a miracle.

Sean Murphy hit a medium distance fly to Michael Brantley in left field that looked like it would easily score the speedy Laureano at third. But Brantley, not known for a strong arm, threw a one-hop perfect strike to home to beat Lowrie home and complete the double play. Javier finished the inning with a strikeout of Stephen Piscotty.

Michael Brantley. What a pro!

But in the seventh inning, it looked like Jose Altuve was determined to hand the game to the A’s. Fortunately, another strong relief performance by Blake Taylor kept the game tied.

Altuve was charged with two errors in the inning, the first when he let a grounder skip beneath his glove. The second when he failed to catch the relay from second to first on an attempted double play in which he was covering first.

But with one out and runners on second and third, Taylor got a shallow fly and a pop out to end the scoring threat and keep the game tied.

Tied until the seventh, when, with two outs, Kyle Tucker hit a solo bomb to right field, his third homer this year against the tough Manaea, which put the Astros in the lead for good.

Ryne Stanek got the hold with a perfect eighth inning, his 11th. And All Star Ryan Pressly got the save with a perfect ninth inning, his 16th. Both pitched last night as well.

The Astros are now 5.5 games ahead of the A’s for the lead in the AL West. And they have sole possession of first place of the American League by a half-game over the Red Sox.

Early game tomorrow, 1:10 CDT. Frankie Montas goes up against Lance McCullers.

Box score and videos HERE.