HOUSTON (AP) Most of the Oakland A's had not seen much of Houston starter Collin McHugh until Wednesday night. After facing him for 5 2-3 innings, they weren't any more comfortable.
Oakland struggled at the plate against the Houston starter striking out 11 times before McHugh was lifted in the Astros' 6-1 win. With little experience against him the A's were unable to get their bats revved up.
''He got ahead, which creates a little doubt in your mind, and he's got a number of pitches he can throw to you,'' A's manager Bob Melvin said. ''If you haven't faced him - and we haven't got too many guys that have faced him - sometimes it takes a little time to understand and read the break on it. You've got to give him credit - he pitched a good game.''
McHugh (2-0) allowed six hits and one run in the win. McHugh is the only Astros starter to earn a win since Dallas Keuchel's opening-day victory. His 11 strikeouts were a season high and one shy of his career high as he unsettled the A's through his effective start.
''He's tough,'' Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said. ''He doesn't really throw anything straight. It's tough to decipher which is which.''
The A's have been outscored 32-14 in their five losses, compared to a 42-1 margin in their five wins.
Oakland starter Drew Pomeranz (1-1) followed his masterful two-hit, seven-inning performance against Seattle by allowing four runs and six hits in five innings.
''It's pretty frustrating,'' Pomeranz said. ''They got hits at the right time, and they took advantage of them.''
The Astros hit Pomeranz hard early, with Jose Altuve leading off with a 400-foot double to left-center and Lowrie later following with a two-run homer off the train tracks above the left-field fence.
Oakland picked up a run in the second inning when Marcus Semien beat out a close play for an infield single with the bases loaded. Semien's hit was the fourth Oakland single in the inning, scoring Billy Butler.
Lowrie had an RBI double in the third inning, and Altuve added a run-scoring single in the fifth to make it 4-1.
Facing the team he spent the past two seasons with, Lowrie was hit by a pitch on Tuesday and joked with players and coaches before Wednesday's game about potential retaliation.
Valbuena gave Houston a 5-1 lead with a homer into the first row of the Crawford Boxes in left field.
Gattis' 421-foot homer to deep left-center in the eighth inning was his first as an Astro and was just his third hit in 33 at-bats so far this season. The homer boosted his average to .094.
Butler extended his hitting streak to an American League-leading 10 games. He became the first player in club history to record a hit in his first 10 games with the Athletics. On Friday, Butler returns to Kansas City, where he spent the first eight years of his career.
Athletics: IF-OF Ben Zobrist was held from the starting lineup Wednesday with a bruised right heel. Melvin said Zobrist felt lingering soreness from a defensive play earlier in the week. Melvin said Zobrist was available to play and expected him to return to the starting lineup on Friday in Kansas City. ... LHP closer Sean Doolittle is making progress in his rehab throwing program, Melvin said. Doolittle played long toss from 105 to 120 feet on Tuesday with no pain. Doolittle (slight rotator cuff tear in his left shoulder) is expected to miss the first month of the season.
Astros: Houston reliever Josh Fields (groin) made his third rehab appearance Tuesday night for Triple-A Fresno, tossing one scoreless inning with one strikeout. Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Fields will throw at least one more game on his rehab assignment before returning to the Astros.
Athletics: Right-hander Sonny Gray (1-0) will start for Oakland on Friday. Gray has allowed just one earned run in 15 1-3 innings in his first two starts and is 5-1 with a 1.61 ERA in seven career starts in April.
Astros: Right-hander Roberto Hernandez (0-1) will take the mound against the Los Angeles Angels. The 34-year-old gave up five runs, one earned, on five hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings in his Astros debut at Texas.
Melvin jokingly admitted before Wednesday night's Jackie Robinson Day game, in which every player wears No. 42, that the tribute comes with one tricky side effect. ''It's kind of tough to distinguish people,'' he said with a laugh. ''But it's a great tribute. Obviously, he's meant so much to the game. It ends up being one of those special days within the grind of the regular season.''