HOUSTON — After six consecutive losing seasons, the Houston Astros are off to their best start ever.
Evan Gattis hit a two-run homer to help Dallas Keuchel win his eighth consecutive decision, and the Astros kept rolling with a 6-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
The Astros, who were baseball's worst team in three of the last four years, improved to an American League-best 27-14, giving them the best start through 41 games in franchise history. Sitting atop the AL West, this is the latest the Astros have led their division since May 22, 2004.
"It's the most fun I've had in a long time," Keuchel said. "There's absolutely no panic. They took the first game here and we continued to grind and make adjustments. So when we do that it's fun here and I think the guys here are expecting to win now."
Keuchel (6-0) allowed six hits and no earned runs in seven innings to lower his ERA to 1.67. He is 8-0 with a 1.79 ERA since an Aug. 21 loss at the New York Yankees, the longest current unbeaten streak by a big league starter. And his 6-0 mark this year is the best by an Astros pitcher since Roger Clemens opened the 2004 season at 9-0.
"I thought he was as sharp as he's been all year early," manager A.J. Hinch said. "They made him work a couple innings that we long which got him out of there after seven but he really dialed up in a couple innings when they had the bases loaded."
The game was tied in the sixth inning when Gattis sent his soaring homer into left field to make it 3-1. George Springer, who finished with two hits, singled with two outs to set up the go-ahead shot by Gattis.
The home run gives Gattis 24 RBIs this season, which ties Jose Altuve for most on the team.
Oakland starter Jesse Hahn (1-3) allowed three runs and five hits over six innings in his third consecutive loss.
The A's have lost six of their past seven and 12 of 14 games, falling 14 games under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2011 season 74-88.
"There's a lot of frustration that builds up when we don't win and that's where we are as a team right now," manager Bob Melvin said. "We're going to have to play our way out of it."
Colby Rasmus drove in a run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the eighth, and Chris Carter tacked on a pair with a single to shallow center in that inning.
Marwin Gonzalez doubled to start the third for Houston's first hit. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and put the Astros up 1-0 when he scored on a single by Jake Marisnick.
A walk by Billy Butler followed by consecutive singles by Brett Lawrie and Josh Phegley loaded the bases for Oakland with one out in the fourth inning. But Keuchel escaped the jam by retiring Mark Canha and Craig Gentry to end the inning.
Butler and Lawrie hit back-to-back singles with one out in the sixth and Butler scored on a two-out error by Carter on a ball hit by Canha to tie it at 1-all.
Eric Sogard singled to start the seventh, but Keuchel sat down the next three batters to end his day.
Athletics: OF Coco Crisp was out of the lineup on Wednesday after leaving Tuesday night's game after the top of the fourth inning with tightness in his neck. Melvin said he's listed as day to day. ... Second baseman Ben Zobrist, on the 15-day DL with a knee injury, felt good after playing five innings in a minor league rehabilitation start. He's scheduled to play seven innings in a second start on Wednesday. ... Starter Drew Pomeranz returned to Oakland on Wednesday to be examined after leaving Monday night's game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left shoulder.
Astros: Brett Oberholtzer, who is on the disabled list for the second time this season with a blister on his left index finger, threw a bullpen on Tuesday and will throw another one in a few days before throwing live batting practice and possibly leaving for a rehabilitation assignment.
Gattis on heating up at the plate after hitting just .164 in April: "It's good to be hitting the ball again. Actions speak louder than anything said so to keep running me out there ... I'm grateful for that."
Athletics: The A's open a four-game series at Tampa Bay with Jesse Chavez facing Alex Colome. Chavez has alternated between the bullpen and starting this season and is 1-3 with a 3.19 ERA in five starts.
Astros: The Astros head to Detroit to open a four-game series with Scott Feldman opposing David Price. Feldman is coming off a win over Toronto when he struck out a season-high 10 batters, which were the most he fanned since a career-high 12 on May 1, 2013.
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