HOUSTON -- The Astros kept pace in the American League Wild Card race Tuesday night by getting six scoreless innings from starter Collin McHugh and homers by Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis to beat the A's, 3-1, at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros, who have won nine of their past 11 games, remained two games behind the Orioles for the second AL Wild Card spot and moved to within three games of the Red Sox for the top AL Wild Card spot. The Tigers stayed one game ahead of the Astros.
"We know we've got a little over a month left. You can't start looking at the scoreboard this time of year, you can't start saying who's doing what," McHugh said. "You've just got to take care of business at home and that's what we're focused on doing and that's what we came out to do tonight. But it feels good to have a good outing and be able to help the team, especially in a game their guy is throwing the ball well, too. Our guys put us on the board early and to be able to hold steady is huge."
McHugh (9-10) held the A's to four hits and struck out five while throwing 102 pitches to outduel Kendall Graveman (10-9), who allowed four hits -- including homers by Rasmus and Gattis -- and three runs in seven innings. Rasmus, in his return from the disabled list, homered in the second, Alex Bregman added an RBI single in the third and Gattis clubbed his 22nd homer in the seventh to make it 3-0.
"We just didn't do enough offensively to give [Graveman] support," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll take that stuff every night."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rasmus returns with bang: Rasmus was activated from the disabled list before the game and made an immediate impact, throwing out a runner at the plate to end the second with a double play and launching his 13th homer in the bottom of the inning. Rasmus entered the game in a 3-for-66 slump, with two of the hits being home runs, but it's believed his ear issues contributed to his struggles at the plate.
"Man, it's about as good a feeling as you can have being a baseball player," Rasmus said. "I was just glad to be able to get out there and contribute and do some good for the team at a time where we needed a little spark. Gravemen threw a good game. Those next few at-bats he made some good pitches on me, but I was just thankful to be out there." More >
Scoring drought: For the second straight game, the Oakland offense struggled to get anything going. After being shut out Monday, the A's followed that up by making it 17 consecutive innings without a run. While Graveman pitched well for most of the night, the offense was unable to do enough to keep the Astros from taking the series.
"Those are the games where you save two runs there, make a couple better pitches and then you're 1-1, so they did a good job of neutralizing our offense, and you get that feeling where you need to keep it where it's at, but to go out and eat some innings was good," Graveman said. "But I still feel like there's work to be done."
McHugh sharp: Needing a strong effort, McHugh turned in his best performance since throwing six scoreless innings on July 17 at Seattle. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach four times, but came up with some big pitches to keep the A's off the scoreboard. The outing was a huge step in the right direction for McHugh, who had a 7.41 ERA in his previous seven starts.
"He just works the outside, keeps working outside with the cutter, four-seam combo and curves his downer pitch," A's shortstop Marcus Semien said, "so he had that going today." More >
Semien successful: The A's offense wasn't great, but Semien put together a nice showing in his return to the leadoff spot. The shortstop, who also made a few nice defensive plays in the field, went 1-for-3, knocking Oakland's only extra-base hit -- a leadoff double in the sixth -- while plating Oakland's only run on a groundout to second with two on and no out in the eighth.
"I felt all right," Semien said. "Got on base twice, which is always good, but I wanna win, so it's not the best." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Athletics: Lefty Ross Detwiler will make his fifth start with the A's in Wednesday's series finale against the Astros at Minute Maid Park at 11:10 a.m. PT. Detwiler (1-3, 5.73) has lost his past three starts, posting a 9.00 ERA in those games.
Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers will take the mound for the Astros in Wednesday's 1:10 p.m. CT series finale against the A's at Minute Maid Park. Fiers (9-6) has allowed four earned runs in 13 1/3 innings in his past two starts, both of which the Astros won.