HOUSTON — Frankie Montas had a tough time in the first inning of his previous two starts, giving up seven hits and five runs combined.
So when Oakland’s starter threw a perfect first against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros on Monday night, it was just the confidence boost he needed to get back on track and turn in a strong start.
Montas and two relievers combined for a five-hitter, Stephen Piscotty homered and hit an RBI single and the Athletics beat the Astros 2-0.
It took Montas just eight pitches to retire All-Stars George Springer, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve in the first.
“You go up against Springer, Bregman and Altuve and go 1-2-3, I bet you that gives you some confidence,” Piscotty said of Montas. “They’re a great offense. It was a pitcher’s duel the whole time, but he just went out there every inning and attacked.”
Houston starter Gerrit Cole struck out 11 and scattered three singles across six scoreless innings before Brad Peacock (1-4) took over for the seventh. Piscotty, who finished with three of Oakland’s six hits, greeted him with his home run to left field to make it 1-0.
“It was just a mistake,” Peacock said. “I’ve got some work to do on my slider. It’s not there right now.”
Piscotty added an insurance run with a single in the eighth.
The Athletics have won three in a row and 11 of their past 13. The loss snapped Houston’s six-game winning streak.
Montas (5-2) also allowed just three singles with two walks and two strikeouts in six innings after yielding 17 hits and nine runs combined in his last two starts.
“He was great,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He had that look about him again tonight where he was competing and he was in charge and looked like he was really confident. When he first came up he had that same look and he’s had a couple tougher games along the way, but from the beginning today he had that look in his eye again like he was really competing out there.”
Lou Trivino struck out three in two perfect innings before closer Blake Treinen allowed two singles in the ninth, striking out Evan Gattis for his 23rd save to help Oakland improve to 35-0 this season when leading after seven innings. It’s the 20th consecutive save opportunity he’s converted dating to May 4.
Marwin Gonzalez walked with two outs in the second inning, but Houston didn’t get a hit until a single by Altuve with one out in the fourth. But he was soon erased when he took second and tried to reach third on a wild pitch, and Montas struck out Josh Reddick to end the inning.
Houston had just one hit in the sixth inning before Springer and Bregman hit consecutive singles. Montas was able to escape the jam when Altuve grounded into a double play.
Cole retired the first eight batters before Jonathan Lucroy’s single with two outs in the third inning.
Cole walked Jed Lowrie with two outs in the sixth before an infield single by Khris Davis. But he struck out Matt Olson to end the threat.