Astros blank A's, 2 back of 2nd AL Wild Card

Astros blank A's, 2 back of 2nd AL Wild Card

HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve's 22nd homer of the season in the sixth inning and a two-run, bases-loaded single by Alex Bregman in the seventh helped propel the Astros to their eighth win in 10 games, 6-0, over the A's in Monday night's series opener at Minute Maid Park.

With the win, the Astros moved to within two games of the Orioles for the second Wild Card spot in the American League.

Wild Card standings

"Obviously, through five or six innings, we had done just enough to have the lead, but neither team had swung the bats with any authority," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Altuve's homer was a big tack-on run and the three-run inning where Bregman breaks it open is what good offenses do when you get the opportunity. I was proud of our guys to hang in there, and our pitching staff did a really good job of not letting them score."

Bregman's two-run single

Astros rookie starter Joe Musgrove (2-2) bounced back from a pair of subpar starts by holding the A's scoreless for 5 1/3 innings despite battling control issues. A's starter Sean Manaea (5-9) left the game in the fourth after only 61 pitches with a muscle strain in his upper back.

Musgrove's scoreless start

The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the second on consecutive two-out, bases-loaded walks by Jake Marisnick and George Springer which followed a pair of fielding errors by Oakland third baseman Ryon Healy. Altuve's homer in the sixth made it 3-0, and the Astros scored three times in the seventh on Bregman's two-run single and an RBI single by Carlos Correa.

"He was fine," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Manaea's performance. "He walked a couple guys with the bases loaded, but we didn't do him any favors with the field, could've been out of the inning. I thought he was pitching fine. It looked like he had good life on his heater and his slider's been good and his changeup. Just didn't do him any favors."

It was the Astros' sixth shutout victory and the A's ninth shutout loss. Houston has now scored 62 runs in its past 10 games, leading the Majors in runs per game (6.20) during that span.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Luke's back: Astros reliever Luke Gregerson, pitching for the first time since Aug. 18 because of an ankle injury, needed only two pitches to get two outs in a key spot in the sixth. Gregerson got Yonder Alonso to hit into a 1-6-3 double play with runners at first and third and one out to thwart a rally.

Astros turn two to end threat

"Just trying to get my feet back in there and do what I normally do and just happened to work out that way," Gregerson said. "It was nice." More >

Manaea leaves early: The A's rotation has been beset by injuries this season, and another came Monday. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Manaea left with an upper back strain after throwing a strike to Marwin Gonzalez. The rookie left-hander allowed only one hit and two runs (both unearned) while striking out four in 3 1/3 innings.

Manaea exits early

"This late in the year, you don't want him trying to pitch around that," Melvin said. More >

Musgrove aggressive and wild: Known throughout the Minor Leagues for his control, Musgrove walked three and hit two more while somehow managing to keep the A's off the board. The outing was still a step in the right direction for Musgrove, who had allowed 13 runs in 9 1/3 innings in his previous two starts. He had walked a total of three in 27 2/3 innings coming into Monday's game.

Musgrove's nice stretch

"That's the kind of pitcher I am," Musgrove said. "I've got to be the guy that goes as hard as I can as long as I can, and the past couple of outings I kind of got away from that. Obviously, starters are trying to make it through seven if we can, and the past couple of outings I found myself trying to kind of pace myself through the first few trying to get to the seventh, and so I did a lot of work this week on making mechanical adjustments. I just told myself, 'Give it everything you have as long as you can,' and let the bullpen take over from there."

Hinch on shutout of A's

Healy fumbles: The bottom of the second wasn't kind to Healy. After Yulieski Gurriel reached safely on an infield single that Healy couldn't quite throw to first in time, Healy misplayed a pair of two-out grounders to load the bases. Manaea then issued two consecutive bases-loaded walks, giving the Astros an early 2-0 lead without having to hit a ball out of the infield.

Healy's between-the-legs stop

"That was the most frustrating part is after the first one happened, I told Sean, 'Give me another one,'" Healy said. "He did his job, and I didn't come through for him, so that was probably the hardest pill to swallow right there."

QUOTABLE
"I'm going to use this as a learning point and move forward. ... I'm definitely going to remember how crummy I feel right now and not let this happen again." -- Healy, on using his errors as motivation

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Correa's seventh-inning RBI single was his 86th RBI this year as a shortstop, tying Miguel Tejada's franchise record (2009).

Correa's RBI single

WHAT'S NEXT
Athletics: The A's will hand the ball to right-hander Kendall Graveman for the middle game of the three-game series Tuesday at Minute Maid Park at 5:10 p.m. PT. Graveman (10-8, 3.97 ERA) has a 2-0 record and 4.19 ERA in three starts against Houston this season.

Astros: Right-hander Collin McHugh (8-10, 5.01) makes his 27th start when the Astros face the A's at 7:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. McHugh snapped a four-game skid Wednesday at Pittsburgh, allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings.

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Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.