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Astros-Athletics Preview

OAKLAND, Calif. -- There should be few secrets when Houston Astros right-hander Doug Fister is on the mound Wednesday afternoon, pitching against the Oakland A's in the finale of a three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum.

Fister (9-6, 3.64 ERA) will start against Oakland for the fourth time this season, all in a span of 80 days.

"I don't think it really changes anything," said Fister, who will try to prevent the A's from sweeping the three-game series. "This game's really a game of chess anyway, but no matter what you do prior, it all comes down to execution. I can throw the same pitch three different times, and three different times I get three different results.

"I'm still going to attack with the same game plan, and obviously there's minute changes that happen, but for the most part, everything's going to stay the same. I'm just going to attack and let the defense work."

Based on Fister's numbers this year against the A's, there is no reason for him to make drastic alterations. He is 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA vs. Oakland He allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 victory on May 1 at the Coliseum and no runs over six innings in a 12-2 win on June 3 in Houston. In his third start against the A's, Fister gave up two runs over eight innings in a 3-1 loss on July 7 at Houston.

The latter game was Fister's third consecutive defeat, but he snapped his skid Friday at Seattle, allowing three runs over five innings in a 9-6 victory.

"I've felt pretty good for a while now," Fister said. "I've had a couple hiccups, but at the same time, those guys are pretty good. I've got to come back and execute every fifth day, and that's the road we're trying to get back on."

A's rookie right-hander Daniel Mengden (1-4, 5.54 ERA) will make his eighth career start and try to get back on track after three straight rough starts. Mengden gave up a combined eight earned runs over his first four starts but allowed 16 earned runs in his past three.

Mengden yielded six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings and got a no-decision in a 10-9 loss to the Astros on July 8 at Houston. Then in his first start after the All-Star break, he allowed six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings and got a no-decision in an 8-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday at the Coliseum.

"Last start, my control might have been a little off," Mengden said. "I think my arm slot was a little different. Trying to find it a little bit."

Mengden acknowledged that he has never experienced such a rough stretch of games in his career.

"But I'm in the big leagues now, and it's not as easy as in the minors," Mengden said. "Just in a little funk. I'm not too worried about it. The past is the past. I'm trying to stay looking forward, and I'm looking forward to pitching against the Astros again on Wednesday."

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