HOUSTON (AP) — The Astros are a deep, veteran team, making it tough for bench players like Tony Kemp and Aledmys Diaz to get onto the field.
That pair was ready Sunday, sparking Houston to a comeback win.
A little wild work from Oakland’s most-feared reliever helped, too.
Jose Altuve drew a four-pitch walk from Athletics closer Blake Treinen with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Astros a 9-8 win and a three-game sweep of their AL West rival.
Josh Reddick walked and Diaz singled off Treinen (0-1) to begin the ninth. Reddick was thrown out at third on a bunt by Robinson Chirinos.
Kemp walked to load the bases before Treinen struck out George Springer. Altuve never saw a strike, forcing home the winning run.
Treinen said he struggled with command of his hard, sinking fastball in the ninth, especially with Altuve.
“I didn’t really give myself much of a chance to be successful at that at-bat,” he said.
Roberto Osuna (1-0) struck out one in a perfect ninth.
The Astros scored five runs in the first but trailed 8-6 going into the eighth. Kemp homered off Lou Trivino, Springer followed with a flyball that dropped in shallow right field for a double and Treinen relieved. A single by Altuve set up Alex Bregman’s tying sacrifice fly.
“We’re a hard lineup to crack when we’re fully healthy, but contributions can come from anywhere,” manager AJ Hinch said. “From an individual standpoint, these guys keep working and keep waiting for their name to be in the lineup. From a team standpoint, it makes us a more complete offense when our entire team is putting up good at-bats.”
Kemp said individual work helps keep him ready when he has a chance to contribute.
“A couple of us, we know our role,” he said. “We know we’re not going to be in there every day but we know when our name’s called it’s important that we’re ready to go. A lot of it has to do with preparation and a lot of it has to do with the time in the cage.”
Oakland trailed by a run with one on and one out in the sixth when Josh Phegley connected on his first home run of the season off rookie Josh James, which bounced off the wall above the seats in left field to make it 7-6.
Chad Pinder, who drove in two runs in the first with a double, homered off Hector Rondon to start the A’s eighth for an 8-6 lead.
Robbie Grossman homered with three RBIs and finished a triple shy of the cycle as the Athletics lost for the fourth time in five games.
The Athletics got a rough start from Mike Fiers, who allowed seven hits and six runs without getting out of the second inning. He entered the game having pitched 12 straight scoreless innings.
Houston starter Brad Peacock also struggled early, allowing four runs in the first two innings before settling in and giving up just one more run in the next three.
Diaz got his first hit as an Astro with a three-run homer in the first and drove in a fourth run with a bases-loaded walk.
The Athletics took a 2-0 lead in the first when Pinder got a two-run double that hit roof before landing in left field.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin expressed frustration that his team’s schedule is lacking any days off from March 28-April 14, which has led to stress on the bullpen.
“My concern is 18 in a row. It’s really not that fair to start the season like that,” he said. “Starters are not stretched out when the season starts … it’s a challenge.”
WHO’S ON FIRST
Diaz made his first career appearance at first base Sunday with Yuli Gurriel getting a day off. He didn’t see much action in the field, but made the few plays he had to make without any mistakes. The Astros acquired Diaz in a trade with Toronto in the offseason and expect him to fill the utility role that Marwin Gonzalez, who signed with the Twins, had handled for the past few seasons. Diaz has primarily been a shortstop in his career, but has also appeared at second and third base and in left field.
Athletics: Oakland begins a four-game series at Baltimore on Monday when Marco Estrada (0-0, 2.76 ERA) opposes Andrew Cashner (1-1, 5.40). Estrada allowed two hits and three runs — two earned — in 5 1/3 innings in his last start but did not factor in the decision.
Astros: RHP Justin Verlander will start on Monday when Houston begins a three-game series at home with the Yankees. Verlander will look to get back on track after allowing six hits and four runs in four innings of a loss to Texas in his last start.