Maldonado’s 3 RBIs lead Astros over A’s 8-4 and into 1st

Houston Astros pitcher Andre Scrubb (70) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve after the Astros defeated the Oakland Athletics 8-4 in a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Houston Astros pitcher Andre Scrubb (70) celebrates with second baseman Jose Altuve after the Astros defeated the Oakland Athletics 8-4 in a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

(AP) – Martín Maldonado homered and drove in three runs, helping the Houston Astros beat the Oakland 8-4 on Thursday to move ahead of the Athletics for the AL West lead.

Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel also had run-scoring hits for the Astros in the rubber match of a three-game series. Houston is 21-9 against division opponents, including 7-3 against Oakland, and at 26-18 has sole possession of the division lead for the first time since before play on April 9.

“There’s always significance when you’re in first place,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ll take it at any point in time of the season and, hopefully, we never relinquish first place.”

Mark Canha, Tony Kemp and Seth Brown homered for the A's (26-19).

Luis Garcia (2-3) won his second straight start, limiting the Athletics to two runs and three hits in five innings with seven strikeouts.

Cole Irvin (3-5) struggled for Oakland, allowing five runs and eight hits in five innings.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin was ejected by plate umpire Alan Porter following the fifth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

“I was just a little bit frustrated and probably went a little too far,” Melvin admitted. “A couple of things over the course of the game. Probably my fault for getting thrown out.”