OAKLAND — The leadoff home run by Jose Altuve was hardly what frustrated Rich Hill the most. It was the three walks and the sacrifice fly he gave up in the third inning that left Oakland’s left-hander shaking his head.
Hill allowed just two hits in six innings, but the Athletics stranded four runners in scoring position and lost to the Houston Astros 2-1 on Sunday.
“They just did a good job in the third inning,” Hill said following his third consecutive home loss. “My curveball wasn’t hitting early on and it came back in the fifth and sixth inning, but by that time they had already done their job.”
Altuve homered leading off a game for the fourth time this season — one of only two hits by Houston — to help the Astros avoid a series sweep.
Doug Fister (2-3) gave up one run over 62/3 innings to end his three-game losing streak. Fister walked one, struck out five and pitched out of a pair of early jams to win his first start at the Coliseum in nearly two years.
Hill (3-3) nearly matched Fister, but the A’s came up short and fell to 5-4 in one-run games.
Oakland loaded the bases in the second but failed to score and stranded runners at third after that, including in the seventh when Jed Lowrie flied out to end the inning.
“If we swung the bats better, a lot of times that’s enough,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We had some opportunities if someone gets a big hit. We just weren’t able to do it.”
Altuve hit his seventh home run of the season on a 1-1 pitch from Hill after going hitless in the first two games of this series between AL West rivals.
The A’s have not swept a series of three games or longer at home since taking four in a row from Toronto from July 3-6, 2014.
A’s right-hander Henderson Alvarez (shoulder surgery) is getting closer to joining the team. Alvarez threw 48 pitches over four innings Friday and the team hopes to stretch him out to 75 pitches on Thursday. “We’re getting to the point where we’re starting to get excited about it,” manager Bob Melvin said.
Right-hander Kendall Graveman, who starts for the A’s against Seattle tonight, gave up six runs in his most recent outing after giving up a total of four runs in his first three appearances.