After dropping 10 in a row against Oakland to start the season, it appears the Astros have finally figured out how to beat the A's.
They've done so three of the last four times the two clubs have met, and on Thursday afternoon, Houston will go for its first sweep of Oakland at O.co Coliseum.
The A's could use a victory in the worst way. Their two losses to Houston have dropped them two games back of Texas in the American League West, and their lead in the Wild Card sits at 2 1/2 games over the Baltimore Orioles.
The Astros' oldest player, Erik Bedard (3-8, 4.28 ERA), gets the start on Thursday. The 34-year-old southpaw has to figure his luck will change sometime soon.
Bedard hasn't won since June 26, but he left his previous two starts with a lead that he watched the young bullpen lose.
"We have a young team," he said. "You're going to go through spurts like that, and you try to get through it."
Despite a respectable 3.98 ERA in his last seven starts, Bedard is 0-5 in those outings, and the team is 0-7.
With Bedard on the hill, it's an opportune time for A's manager Bob Melvin to insert right-handed-hitting catcher Derek Norris into the lineup. Norris caught a bullpen session Tuesday, took batting practice Wednesday and should be in the lineup Thursday if his back spasms don't resurface.
"Obviously, my back's not 100 percent," Norris said. "But I'm able to do every movement without any pain. It's just a little bit of back tightness, and that's it."
Norris will be catching right-hander Sonny Gray, who is set to make his second career big league start. He lost his first one, but pitched well against the Blue Jays on Saturday, allowing four runs (two earned) in six innings.
The 23-year-old is the latest in a long line of young, home-grown A's pitchers to be given a chance at the big league level.
"We value our younger players, certainly our pitching as well," Melvin said. "This organization has done a good job of not only drafting, but getting young pitchers to the big leagues and developing them in a hurry. That's a credit to the development staff and the organization."
Gray will have to contend with a red-hot Jason Castro anchoring the Houston lineup. The backstop is riding a career-high 12-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .370.
Astros: Gonzalez joins team
Infielder Marwin Gonzalez rejoined the Astros on Wednesday, making an appearance as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning.
Gonzalez hit .262 with 15 RBIs in 44 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
• The Astros' two victories this series mark the first time they have won consecutive games since June 12-16 and the first time they've won a series since June 18-20.
A's: Crisp ailing
Center fielder Coco Crisp will likely miss a few more games after he received a cortisone injection to help with pain in his left wrist.
Crisp, who injured the wrist making a diving catch on Sunday, is available to pinch-run but won't be able to swing a bat for a couple days.
"It had been lingering a little bit, and we felt like this was probably the best course of action to speed up the recovery," Melvin said.
• On Wednesday, the Astros traded former A's left-hander Travis Blackley to the division-rival Rangers in exchange for cash considerations.
• Houston's 19 home runs out of the catcher's spot are tied with Cleveland for the most in the American League this season. The Astros are three behind their franchise record of 22 set in '00.
• The A's have committed 13 errors in their last 13 games, which has led to 10 unearned runs.