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OAK@SEA: Kazmir Ks nine, walks none over six innings

OAKLAND -- The A's will try to keep their good fortune against the Astros rolling when they send Houston native Scott Kazmir to the mound on Saturday afternoon to face the team he grew up cheering for as a kid.

Kazmir (2-0, 1.40 ERA) had the stuff to go the distance in his last start against the Mariners, but his time on the mound was cut short after six innings because of a mild dose of triceps tightness, which also sidelined the lefty for a few days in Spring Training.

But Kazmir insisted after the game, in which he allowed just two hits with nine strikeouts, that he was fine. The veteran southpaw has allowed just three earned runs total while fanning 19 in 19 1/3 innings this year. He's 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA over his last 21 starts dating back to last season.

"He's giving us as good a chance as anybody to win," A's catcher John Jaso said. "He's putting us in the best possible position for that."

Kazmir's A's are in the middle of a stretch of 19 straight games against division opponents. To this point, they're 5-2.

"It's always nice to get off to a good start against divisional opponents," manager Bob Melvin said. "Houston's the one wild card, because we don't see them in spring. They brought in some new guys, brought [George] Springer up. So we don't know as much about them as some other teams, but you do like to get off to a nice start against your division, especially when you play that many games against them."

Kazmir will be facing an Astros team that will be trying to snap a five-game losing streak, but is starting to show some signs of life on offense. The Astros had 10 hits for the second time in three games in Friday's loss to the A's, including nine singles.

Still, manager Bo Porter knows it's starting pitcher that's going to carry his club. Lefty Brett Oberholtzer (0-3, 3.50) has pitched well enough to win. He threw five scoreless innings in his first start, and his last time out he allowed three runs in seven innings to the Rangers.

Astros starters had a 3.00 ERA in seven consecutive games prior to Jarred Cosart allowing seven runs in one-third of an inning in Friday's series opener. For the most part, Porter has been pleased with his starters.

"They've given us a chance to win each and every time they've taken the ball," he said. "That's what you ask from your starting pitchers. Even the guys that have maybe not had the stuff on the days in which they took the mound, you look up and they're going six or seven innings and they're still in the ballgames."

Athletics: Crisp returns to lineup

Coco Crisp, who had started just two of the A's last six games and none since Sunday, was back in the lineup for the A's three-game series opener against the visiting Astros on Friday.

He made his presence felt by hitting a two-run homer in the fifth inning off Houston reliever Paul Clemens.

Crisp was hampered by a sore left wrist in the second week of the season, and a hamstring injury limited his activity most of this week.

As of Friday, "I think he's as close to 100 percent as you'll get," said manager Bob Melvin.

Astros: New-look lineup ignites offense

Porter juggled his lineup Friday in an attempt to put a charge into the offense, and it worked to a certain degree. The Astros tied a season-high with 10 hits, but scored only three runs.

Still, seeing Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler, Springer and Jonathan Villar get two hits each was a welcomed sight for an offense that began Friday hitting .188. Altuve batted leadoff for the first time this year, with Fowler moving down a notch to the No. 2 spot. Springer, in only his third Major League game, batted cleanup and collected his first career RBI.

Don't be surprised to see Porter stick with this lineup, based on some advice he got from Hall of Fame-elect manager Bobby Cox recently.

"Last year when I talked to him about lineup construction, he said the only thing is you've got to be careful when you make a move to make sure you move him someplace that if they hit, you're OK leaving them there," he said. "Whenever you make those moves, you want to make sure that one, the lineup construction makes sense; and two, if the players take off and the team takes off, you're OK with leaving it the way it is."

Worth noting

• The A's are 21-5 all-time against the Astros, which is the best record by a team against another among those who have played at least 20 times. 

• Astros outfielder Dexter Fowler (0-for-15) and shortstop Jonathan Villar (0-for-16) both snapped droughts Friday by getting two hits.

• A's center fielder Coco Crisp had his 145-game errorless streak snapped Friday.

• Yoenis Cespedes has a 13-game hitting streak against the Astros.

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