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Astros look to sweep series with A's

Left-hander Jesus Luzardo, who has a history of firsts against the Houston Astros, will attempt to avoid a second when he takes the mound for the visiting Oakland Athletics against the three-time defending American League West champions on Sunday afternoon.

On the heels of a doubleheader sweep on Saturday (by scores of 4-2 and 6-3), the will attempt to saddle Oakland with just its second three-game losing streak of the season by sending left-hander Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.35 ERA) to the mound.

The first-place A's lost their final three games of July before running off nine straight wins, including a three-game sweep of the Astros in Oakland.

Pitching in Houston figures to bring back positive thoughts for Luzardo (2-1, 3.74), who made his major league debut at Minute Maid Park last September. Pitching in relief, he registered a hold for his three-inning effort, limiting the Astros to one run, that coming on a home run to the third batter he faced, Martin Maldonado.

Luzardo's first major league win also came at the expense of the Astros on Aug. 9, when he allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 7-2 win. Yuli Gurriel accounted for the Houston runs with a two-run homer.

The 22-year old is 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA in his two career games, one start, against the Astros.

One guy Luzardo would be wise to avoid in the first inning is Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker, who gave Houston head-starts on their doubleheader sweep Saturday with a three-run homer in the first inning of Game 1 and a three-run triple in the first inning of Game 2.

Tucker has never gotten a hit off Luzardo, going 0-for-2.

Valdez was one of Houston's losing pitchers in its three-game thumping in Oakland. He pitched well in a 3-1 loss on Aug. 8, striking out nine in seven innings while allowing just one earned run.

That run was a result of Marcus Semien's home run on the sixth pitch of the game.

The 26-year-old has faced the A's three times in his career, with one start, going 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA.

Valdez has rebounded from the loss in Oakland with three straight wins, supported by 11 or more runs on all three occasions.

He didn't need all the help in his last outing, striking out 11 in seven innings in an 11-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

"Framber is nasty," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa demanded after Monday's win. "We faced him in the summer and were able to give him feedback how good he is and gave him some confidence going into the season. He knows now that he can attack hitters, and he has been able to do that all year. When he is throwing strikes, he is very, very good."

Valdez will see a new member of the A's who wasn't with the team when the clubs met in Oakland. Tommy La Stella, acquired in a trade with the Angels on Friday, made his A's debut in Saturday's nightcap, going 0-for-3 with an RBI.

"I've admired these guys for some time from across the diamond," La Stella noted of his new teammates after the game. "Love the way they go about it, the way they play the game ... 1-through-9, pulling for each other. You can tell being on the other side of the field.

"To get a chance to be a part of it, it was great."

--Field Level Media