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Astros need big series vs. division-leading A's

The Oakland Athletics and host Houston Astros hope to return to the field on Friday after having breaks for different reasons.

Houston last played on Tuesday as the following night's home game against the Los Angeles Angels was postponed due to then-approaching Hurricane Laura. Friday's game is expected to be played without weather issues with the storm moving well to the northeast.

Oakland's road game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday was postponed due to the two teams deciding to add their voice to the national sports boycott over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis.

The Athletics and Rangers pondered a postponement on Wednesday night shortly before game time before deciding to play. So Thursday's postponement didn't come as a huge surprise.

"The city that we play in has a long history of fighting for what is right," Oakland shortstop Marcus Semien said after Thursday's postponement. "That's what we are trying to do here.

"I feel like a lot of our fans will have our backs on this. When they turn on what they think will be an A's game and it's not on there, they'll understand why. Take the light off us for a night and educate yourselves on what is going on in our country and how we can make things better."

The Athletics are playing solid baseball with six victories in the past eight games entering the three-game set with the Astros. They own an American League-best 22-10 record.

Oakland holds a 4 1/2-game lead over Houston in the American League West race. The Astros (17-14) have sputtered of late with four losses in their past six contests.

Houston's pitching has allowed 12 or more runs in two of the past five games, including 13 against the San Diego Padres last Saturday.

Astros manager Dusty Baker was frustrated after Tuesday's doubleheader against the Angels. He said the offense has to quit squandering scoring opportunities.

"We've got to get better at the add-on runs and put them away," Baker told reporters. "Just right now, it doesn't seem like we have the killer instinct to really put (teams) away, but we'll get it."

The struggles of six-time All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve continue to plague the offense.

The three-time AL batting champion appeared to be breaking out of his slump by recording four consecutive multi-hit games last week, but he has since gone 1-for-13 over the past four games.

Altuve is batting just .206 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 30 games.

Altuve is 5-for-17 with one homer against presumed Oakland starter Chris Bassitt.

The 31-year-old Bassitt was slated to start Thursday's game prior to the postponement. The Athletics didn't make any announcements per the pitching rotation as of Thursday night.

Bassitt (2-1, 2.97 ERA) lost to the Los Angeles Angels in his last turn when he gave up four runs (two earned) and six hits over 5 2/3 innings last Saturday.

He received a no-decision against Houston on Aug. 7 when he gave up one run and three hits over seven innings.

Bassitt is 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Astros.

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. will be on the mound for the Astros.

McCullers (2-2, 5.74 ERA) lost to the San Diego Padres in his last start on Aug. 21, allowing four runs and seven hits over five innings. The 26-year-old is 4-2 with a 4.40 ERA in eight career starts against the Athletics.

He has struggled with Semien (7-for-16, four walks) as well as Stephen Piscotty (3-for-7) and Matt Chapman (3-for-8, three doubles).

Chapman is expected to be in the starting lineup. He missed Wednesday's start against the Rangers after being hit in the head by a pitch one night earlier. But headaches he was experiencing before the game dissipated and he later entered the game in the bottom of the eighth as a defensive replacement.

Houston hopes to have outfielder George Springer (elbow) back in the lineup. He missed both games of Tuesday's doubleheader, one night after he was hit by a pitch.

--Field Level Media