OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - A fly ball to left field that somehow ended up in the bullpen. A misplayed routine grounder up the middle turned into a base hit to extend a rally.
On a night when Sonny Gray did just about all he could to keep Oakland's recent good fortunes going, the Athletics defense let it slip away in one inning.
Just like that, manager Bob Melvin's club lost its share of first place in the AL West.
Gray pitched eight stellar innings but Oakland was held in check most of the night by former farmhand Brad Peacock, who took a shutout into the eighth inning while helping the Houston Astros beat the A's 3-2 on Thursday night.
``We were a little in-between on a couple of plays and those things end up costing you in close games,' Melvin said. ``But then (Gray) settled in really nicely, similar to what we've done here recently, which was pitch very well.'
Gray gave up a run in the first inning on Chris Carter's RBI single, then allowed a one-out single to L.J. Hoes in the second when Oakland's defense broke down.
Matt Pagnozzi hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Jed Lowrie fielded only after second baseman Eric Sogard broke for the bag rather than the ball.
After Gray struck out Jonathan Villar, Jose Altuve singled to drive in Hoes for a 2-0 lead. Pagnozzi scored when the ball glanced off Oakland left fielder Yoenis Cespedes's glove and rolled into the A's bullpen.
``I kind of got us off to a rough start,' Gray said. ``They might not have been hitting the ball hard but I still wasn't executing my pitches, especially with two out in the second inning.'
Gray, who pitched eight scoreless innings against the Astros for his first win in the majors on Aug. 15, settled down and retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced. The rookie struck out seven and walked one.
``The defense let him down a lot,' Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson said. ``Obviously the offense didn't do much. It was just a wasted opportunity for him.'
Altuve had two hits and drove in a run to back a stellar outing by Peacock, while Trevor Crowe singled, doubled and scored to help the Astros to their third win in the last four games against their division rivals. Oakland had won 11 of the first 12 meetings between the teams.
Peacock, part of the offseason trade that sent Lowrie to the A's, had no trouble handling Oakland in the third start against his former club. He finished with nine strikeouts and one walk.
``This is definitely a confidence builder,' Peacock said. ``I have a bunch of buddies over there. I'm happy where I am now. I've got an opportunity here.'
The A's went into the night tied with Texas for first place but couldn't get much going against Peacock (4-5).
The Houston right-hander, knocked around for nine earned runs over his previous 10 1-3 innings, gave up five hits and didn't allow a runner past second base until Sogard's leadoff triple in the eighth. Stephen Vogt followed with an RBI double to end the shutout bid and chase Peacock.
Astros manager Bo Porter was ejected later in the inning after arguing a close play at home plate.
With Vogt on third following Lowrie's infield single, pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo hit a short chopper in front of the mound. Reliever Jorge De Leon fielded the ball and flipped it to Pagnozzi, but Vogt slid in under the catcher's tag to pull the A's within 3-2.
A furious Porter sprinted out from the dugout and yelled at home plate umpire Mark Ripperger before getting tossed. Porter continued to scream at Ripperger while walking off the field, pausing near the dugout and angrily pointing his finger at the umpire.
``Yeah, I beat it,' Vogt said. ``My foot was definitely on the plate before he tagged me. (Ripperger) made a good call.'
Josh Fields replaced De Leon and recorded the final four outs for his third save.
It was a rough night all around for Oakland's hitters. Cespedes struck out twice. A's designated hitter Seth Smith fanned three times.
The Astros gave Peacock plenty of support early.
Trevor Crowe doubled off Gray on a softly hit ball into the gap in right center in the first inning. After Brett Wallace walked, Carter singled in Crowe to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
Notes: The A's activated C Derek Norris from the DL list before the game. Norris had been sidelined with a broken left big toe since Aug. 20. ... Vogt has an eight-game hitting streak.
The Associated Press News Service
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