Bob Melvin

Big Fourth Inning Powers A's Past Astros

OAKLAND — The Houston Astros bring out the best in Yonder Alonso. Not that the opponent seems to matter right now for the A’s first baseman.

Alonso is raking regardless of who’s in the opposing dugout. He was at the center of all that went right for the A’s offensively in a 7-4 victory Monday to open a three-game series at the Coliseum.

Alonso drove in three runs with a double and a single, giving him 13 RBI over his last 16 games. He’s hitting .322 (39-for-121) over his last 38 games after hitting just .210 through his first 52. And the good news for manager Bob Melvin is that Alonso traditionally is a much hotter hitter over the second half than the first.

The A’s got some major assistance from Astros pitchers during a five-run fourth that opened up a 6-2 lead. Mike Fiers (6-4) and Michael Feliz combined to walk four consecutive batters at one point — two with the bases loaded — to aid Oakland’s parade around the bases. But that inning also featured Alonso’s two-run single up the middle off Fiers. Two innings earlier, he brought the A’s first run home with an RBI double to left-center.

In 11 games against Houston this season, Alonso is 18-for-40 (.450) with five doubles and 12 RBI.

That long fourth-inning rally provided a nice cushion for Kendall Graveman (6-6), who won his fifth consecutive decision and continues to round into form nicely. Graveman went seven innings and held the Astros to three runs (two earned), striking out five and walking one.

The A’s have won three of their first four to begin this 10-game homestand to open the second half. They also snapped a streak of seven games in a row that had been decided by two runs or fewer.

Starting pitching report: Graveman beat the Astros for the second consecutive start; he took a shutout into the ninth inning against them at Minute Maid Park in his final start before the All-Star break. His teammates’ long fourth-inning rally gave him a 6-2 lead but also had him sitting on the bench for a long time. Despite allowing Marwin Gonzalez’s two-out solo homer in the fifth, he did well not to give the visitors any belief of a comeback.

Bullpen report: Ryan Dull gave up a run in the eighth to snap his career-high 11 1/3-inning scoreless streak, but he and Ryan Madson closed out the win for Graveman. Madson notched his 20th save.

At the plate: Alonso’s recent production has given a nice boost to the bottom of the A’s batting order, but he had some help Monday. Rookie Ryon Healy, the No. 9 hitter, doubled home a run during the five-run fourth and has made a nice impact in his first handful of big league games. Khris Davis added his team-leading 23rd homer in the seventh, his second opposite field home run in the past three games that reached the seats in right field.

In the field: The A’s committed two more errors — on throwing errors from Healy and Marcus Semien — but they also got a couple of terrific plays in the seventh to back Graveman in his final inning of work. Right fielder Josh Reddick made a running catch of a foul pop that sent him crashing into the Astros’ bullpen and tripping over a small portable heater. Right after that, Healy made a diving stop of Gonzalez’s grounder and made the throw to first to end the inning.

Attendance: A Monday night game against the Astros drew a predictably small crowd of 10,651.

Up next: Dillon Overton (1-1, 11.42) makes his return to the majors for his third career start in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game. He’ll oppose Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.80), who held the A’s to one run over seven innings in the final game before the All-Star break.

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