Rasmus homers twice, Springer connects, Astros top Athletics
HOUSTON (AP) Houston manager A.J. Hinch isn't surprised that his team shook off a terrible road trip by taking a series against Oakland with a 5-1 victory on Sunday.
''We're home,'' Hinch said. ''We're supposed to be back. We're playing at Minute Maid. We're a good team here. It was important for us to come in and win this series.''
Colby Rasmus homered twice and George Springer added a two-run shot to back a solid start by Collin McHugh as the Astros improved to 50-25 at their own ballpark.
The Astros won their second in a row following a five-game skid that knocked them out of first place in the AL West. The win moved them within 1 1/2 games of Texas for first place, and they hold a 2 1/2-game edge over the Angels for the second wild-card spot.
''Any time you can help your team in a situation like that where we're getting down to the nitty gritty trying to put some wins on the board to get back at the Rangers it's a great feeling,'' Rasmus said.
McHugh (17-7) allowed four hits and one run in eight innings, striking out eight in his fourth straight win.
''He stayed very aggressive today with sort of a finish mentality,'' Hinch said. ''Finish his outing, finish the hitters, finish what he started and showed a lot today. I think he stepped up very big for this team when we needed him.''
Barry Zito pitched in the majors for the first since 2013 and gave up Rasmus' second homer. The 37-year-old lefty had spent the season in Triple-A for Oakland after sitting out last year.
''Just being in spring training with them was awesome,'' Zito said. ''Obviously being able to be with the team during the regular season is huge. It's a bonus for sure. I didn't expect it. That's an understatement.''
The game was tied at 1 in the fifth before Springer's two-out homer. It was the 14th home run this season for Springer, but the first since June 30, a span of 59 at-bats. He has reached base safely in all 15 games since coming off the disabled list but had driven in just two runs before Sunday.
Rasmus hit a solo homer in the second off Aaron Brooks (2-4) and a two-run drive off Zito in the eighth.
Called up from Nashville on Wednesday, Zito gave up two runs, two hits and a walk in his first big league game since Sept. 29, 2013, for San Francisco. He spent his first seven seasons with the A's and was the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner.
He extended a franchise record by being the 30th pitcher for Oakland this season and is the 23rd reliever the A's have used.
''He had a good year in Triple-A,'' manager Bob Melvin said. ''Recently we've had some issues where we've used a lot of guys in the bullpen. He's here for a reason. It's not just because he's Barry Zito. He's pitched well for us this year and deserves to be here.''
Marcus Semien drove in Oakland's only run with a double in the second inning. Billy Butler tried to score on the hit and was thrown out at the plate.
The A's threatened in the seventh when Stephen Vogt drew a walk with two outs and Jake Smolinski doubled. McHugh struck out Semien, pumping his first as he slowly walked off the mound.
Rasmus connected for his 20th homer, a drive that clanged off the foul pole in right field. It was his fourth season with at least 20, and he later added another home run.
Athletics: Selected the contract of C Bryan Anderson with Josh Phegley out with a concussion after being hit in the back of the head during batting practice earlier this week. C Vogt is still recovering from a groin injury and was in the lineup for the first time, at designated hitter.
Astros: OF Carlos Gomez missed his eighth straight game with discomfort in his ribs. He's improving and hit off a tee for the first time on Sunday.
Athletics: Oakland is off on Monday before opening a series against Texas on Tuesday when Sean Nolin opposes Rangers LHP Martin Perez. Nolin is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A on Sept. 4.
Astros: Dallas Keuchel looks for his 18th win when Houston opens a three-game series against Jered Weaver and the Angels. Keuchel will try to bounce back after giving up a career-high nine runs on 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 14-3 loss to the Rangers.