(AP) – Jason Castro homered in his first start back with Houston, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 9-2 on Sunday for a four-game sweep.
Dusty Baker tied Bill McKechnie for 14th among managers with 1,896 wins.
Kyle Tucker and Chas McCormick also homered for the Astros, off to their best start since 2001. Yuli Gurriel had three hits and two RBIs.
Houston outscored the A’s 35-9 in the series with 47 hits, including eight home runs. The Astros became the fourth team in major league history to score eight or more runs in each of its first four games.
“We just had tons of momentum coming in from last year,” McCormick said. “The guys are really hungry. We just crushed them from the first pitch to the last pitch of the whole series. It was cool to watch, cool to be a part of.”
Sweeping the division rival A’s was especially pleasing to the Astros, who were taunted at the Coliseum throughout the series. Houston faces the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal in which Major League Baseball penalized the team ahead of the 2020 season, which was played in empty ballparks due to the pandemic.
Oakland won seven of the 10 games with Houston in 2020 on the way to its first AL West title since 2013.
“You can’t do much better than the start that we had,” Baker said. “You take a quick, fast start anytime. You have to enjoy it while it’s here, try to build off it and keep going from there. We’re leaving out of here mainly feeling good about ourselves with our bullpen strong.”
Mark Canha doubled, tripled and scored twice for the A’s, who are 0-4 for their first time since losing five straight at the start of 1987.
“Look, we don’t feel good about it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “A little bit embarrassing. We played really poorly and they played great. We have to turn things around. It’s not just going to happen.”
Castro was back in the Astros lineup for the first time since leaving Houston as a free agent following the 2016 season. Third on the franchise’s list for games caught entering the year, the 33-year-old Castro is slated for a backup role this season and is likely to share time with Martín Maldonado.
Castro’s home run off Sean Manaea (0-1) in the second came after Myles Straw drew a two-out walk.
Tucker homered off Manaea in the first.
McCormick added a three-run drive off Yusmeiro Petit in the sixth, his first in the majors.
“It was unreal,” McCormick said. “It was an 0-2 count. Rounding the bases I couldn’t stop smiling.”
Brandon Bielak (1-0) pitched 4 2/3 hitless innings of relief with four strikeouts and no walks.
Astros starter José Urquidy struck out five in 4 1/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hit.
Manaea (0-1) gave up five runs, six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Oakland was held to four hits.
ROOKIE MAKES MOUND DEBUT
Oakland rookie Ka’ai Tom pitched a scoreless ninth inning — after starting the game in left field. Tom retired Jose Altuve and Tucker on infield pop-ups before Alex Bregman reached on an infield single. Yordan Alvarez then grounded out. “It was because our bullpen was beat up over the course of these four games,” Melvin said. “I just didn’t want to have to use another pitcher.”
Astros: OF Michael Brantley showed improvement a day after getting hit in the right wrist by a 90 mph fastball, and Baker is cautiously optimistic. “When he’s coming back just depends on his body and how he heals,” Baker said. “We dodged a major bullet by him having no fractures or a broken wrist or anything like that.”
Athletics: RF Chad Pinder is scheduled for an MRI on his left knee Monday after he was taken out not long after making a leaping catch and crashing hard into the fence on Altuve’s deep fly leading off the game. Pinder also made a pair of spectacular catches on opening night. … Sean Murphy (wrist bruise) felt discomfort hitting in the cage before the game and remains out. … Ramon Laureano (sore wrist) is feeling better but was held out.
Astros: RHP Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.92 ERA in 2020) makes his second career start in the first of a two-game series at Anaheim on Monday.
Athletics: Frankie Montas (3-5, 5.60 ERA in 2020) makes his season debut at home against the Dodgers on Monday. Montas hasn’t pitched since coming out of his final spring training start because of a cuticle tear on his right middle finger.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/tag/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports