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HOU@OAK: Chavez allows one run on four hits, fans six

HOUSTON -- The A's Jesse Chavez, one of the game's early feel-good stories, will take the mound Friday night for his fifth start of the year and second in a row against the Astros.

The 30-year-old journeyman, who will be opposed by right-hander Brad Peacock for the second contest of a four-game set at Minute Maid Park, has made a seamless transition from long reliever to starter, entering the matchup with a 1.38 ERA, which ties him for fifth in the Majors with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto. Only Toronto's Mark Buehrle has a better mark (0.64) in the American League.

Chavez was initially expected to start the year in the bullpen again. But injuries to teammates Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin altered Oakland's rotation plans, and the A's have managed just fine, with their starters allowing three earned runs or fewer in 20 of the first 22 games.

Thursday's 10-1 victory moved Oakland back into a first-place tie with Texas in the AL West. The Astros are in last place, at 7-16.

"When somebody goes down or somebody's struggling, you give somebody else an opportunity, and it's their turn to shine," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Jesse's been focused and ready for that opportunity and continues to run with it."

In allowing the Astros just one run in a 4-1 series-sweeping victory in Oakland on Sunday, his first career win as a starter, Chavez became the first player in A's history to start the season on the Opening Day roster to surrender one earned run or none while tossing at least six innings in each of his first four starts.

Through 26 innings, the right-hander has struck out 28 and walked just five. Opponents are batting just .196 off him.

"You have to stay after it," Chavez said. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be in this position. I'm just fortunate and thankful that they gave me the opportunity for this."

Peacock, formerly in the A's organization before being traded with Chris Carter to Houston for Jed Lowrie last year, will be making just his second start of the season, having begun the season in the bullpen. His first came Sunday in Oakland, where he suffered a loss when allowing the A's two runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts over five innings.

The hard-throwing righty's return to the rotation was prompted by Lucas Harrell's demotion, though he's been adequate in these spot situations for the Astros during the past two seasons.

"I think we feel confident giving [the ball] to any of our guys so far," said Houston manager Bo Porter. "They're mostly giving us chances to win, even if the offense isn't matching it. That's all we can ask of them, really."

The A's have had the Astros' number, posting an all-time record of 24-5 against them, including 15-4 last year and 4-0 this season.

"Our record against them says a lot about our inability to throw strikes," Porter said. "They're a real patient team and always understand what they're trying to do in their offensive approach. If you don't throw strikes, they'll work you all game. We can sometimes struggle with that.

"Any time you play in your division, you have to play well. To make strides as an organization and become champions, it starts with beating the teams in your division."

A's: Griffin to get second opinion on elbow
Griffin, who has yet to pitch this year because of a flexor strain in his right elbow, will visit Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff in Houston on Tuesday for a second opinion.

The right-hander, who experienced elbow pain at the end of the 2013 season and again in Spring Training, was shut down nearly six weeks ago but has since shown no improvement. He tried throwing again for the first time this week but still felt discomfort.

There's a chance he may need Tommy John surgery. Mehlhoff performed the procedure on A's rehabbing reliever Fernando Rodriguez last March.

Astros: Albers remains unavailable with shoulder issue
Right-hander Matt Albers was unavailable for a third straight day Thursday, as the reliever continues to deal with shoulder stiffness.

"We'll let the training staff continue to evaluate," Porter said Thursday," and we'll go day to day with his situation."

Though the injury isn't believed to be serious, the Astros may ultimately have to place the 31-year-old on the 15-day disabled list if he doesn't show any improvement soon. He's allowed just one earned run on 10 hits with three walks and 10 strikeovers over 10 innings this year.

"The longer we go, that risk can increase," Porter said. "I'm not going to jump the gun yet. We'll see how he responds to treatment and hopefully things will work themselves out."

Worth noting
• A's third baseman Josh Donaldson, who collected his fifth and sixth homers of the year in Thursday's win, has hit safely in six straight games and 16 of his last 17.

• The A's improved to 14-8 in the month of April on Thursday, clinching their 11th consecutive winning month dating back to June 2012 -- tying the second longest such streak in Oakland history. The record is 13 months, achieved September 1970 to September 1972.

• The Astros rank third in the AL with 26 home runs and are 7-7 in games they homer but 0-9 when they do not.

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