A's start five-game series on right foot, shut out Astros in win

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The Oakland A’s will be seeing a lot of the Houston Astros this week; five games in four days, to be exact.

With just three weeks remaining in the season, each game weighs heavy with postseason implications. The Astros flew into Oakland just 3.5 games back, in stabbing distance of the A’s long-held first place spot atop the American League West. The A’s have a clear shot at a postseason spot, nonetheless, but a fall from first-place grace is one slip-up away.

A shutout was a good way to start. The A’s topped the Astros 6-0 Monday night behind Chris Bassitt’s gem. With that, the A’s moved 4.5 games up on the Astros for first place in the division.

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Chris Bassitt’s happy place: The Coliseum

The A’s starter entered Monday’s game with an 0-1 record and 1.62 ERA in three starts at the Coliseum. Compare that to his 5.95 ERA and 1-2 record on the road.

There seems to be something to this trend. Bassitt tore through the Astros lineup in an efficient seven scoreless innings. Bassitt went seven one other time this season — also against the Astros on Aug. 9.

His toughest escape act occurred in the sixth, when he got Aledmys Diaz out winging at his diving curveball to escape a runners-on-the-corners jam.

He also made an acrobatic play on George Springer’s chopper in the fifth, falling backward as he executed the difficult 1-3 putout. He gave up a good dose of hard contact — and the Astros managed seven hits — but Bassitt struck out four batters with no walks.

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Tony Kemp returns to the lineup and shows out

Kemp had a regular role as manager Bob Melvin’s second baseman of choice against right-handed pitchers. His role was minimized a bit with the addition of left-handed second baseman Tommy La Stella, who has the type of strikeout and contact rate that guarantees him a permanent spot in the lineup.

But, with Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman out with injuries, the left side of the infield opened up. Vimael Machin started at shortstop, La Stella moved to third base and Kemp moved back to his second-base role against right-handed starter Cristian Javier.

Kemp showed a little of what he’d done well while platooning: his first at bat was an RBI double off the right-field wall, his third double of the year. He fell down 1-2 and worked his way into an eight-pitch walk in his second at bat.

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Sean Murphy homers for second time

The A’s catcher hit his second home run in consecutive days. His fourth home run of the year came on a middle-middle fastball from Javier. It traveled off his bat at a 102 exit velocity and 404 feet over the center field wall.

He also gave the A’s some late-inning insurance runs, hitting an opposite field two-run single in the eighth inning.

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©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)