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Hammel rocked again as Athletics fall to Astros 8-1 and lose 2 of 3 in series

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HOUSTON - In the first inning against Houston, Jason Hammel picked up right where he left off since coming to the Oakland Athletics.

That was not good.

Hammel gave up six runs in the first, struggling with his command and Oakland lost 8-1 to the Astros on Wednesday.

The Athletics are searching for the pitcher they thought they acquired from the Cubs, and so is Hammel.

"There's not much to explain; you can see it all for yourself," he said. "I'm a completely different pitcher. Just keep making the same mistakes over and over. Right now it doesn't look to good but it's a long season and I've been through this before."

Hammel (0-4) has made four starts since the A's acquired him with pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs earlier this month. Hammel was 8-5 before the trade.

"He had trouble getting the ball down again and in the next couple of innings when he got the ball down he was effective," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "That's where the movement takes over, the downhill plane and everything that makes him successful. And he had a tough time finishing guys off when he was ahead."

Melvin said he expects Hammel to make his next start.

Hammel's day ended in the fifth when Jonathan Singleton hit his eighth home run.

Dallas Keuchel pitched a four-hitter for Houston and Robbie Grossman homered to cap the six-run first.

Keuchel (10-7) pitched his fourth complete game of the season, tying Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw for the major league lead. And the Astros, 20 games under .500, won the series from the AL West-leading Athletics.

"(The A's) do a lot of things well," Keuchel said. "To get a complete game and get a win is something special in its own right."

Marc Krauss beat out Oakland's try for a double play in the first, and the Astros went on to match a season high for runs in an inning.

Keuchel struck out five and walked three.

Manager Bo Porter lauded Keuchel's "plus-command" and willingness to use his secondary pitches. As he mixed his pitches up, Keuchel kept he A's guessing and forcing the type of contact that can make for a good day.

Josh Donaldson hit his 23rd homer for Oakland's only run.

Krauss hustled for an RBI grounder that kept the first inning going. After Singleton walked, Matt Dominguez singled home a run, and another scored when centre fielder Billy Burns bobbled the ball.

"I'll tell you, I think the biggest play of the game was Jason Castro going hard into second base and Marc Krauss absolutely giving the effort in which he gave getting down the line," Porter said. "That's the way the game is supposed to be played. To both of those guys' credit, they did a tremendous job in that situation."

Carlos Corporan added an RBI single and Grossman, a late addition for the ill Chris Carter, homered into the right-field seats.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: Outfielder Coco Crisp missed his fourth game in a row with a neck strain. Melvin said the club will know more about his condition when it returns home, but said Crisp wouldn't play Friday.

Astros: Reliever Josh Zeid is scheduled to have surgeries on both feet in the next six weeks that will end his 2014 season. Carter was out with a stomach illness.

ALTUVE EXTENDS STREAK, CESPEDES' ENDS

With his line drive single in the sixth inning Jose Altuve ran his hitting streak to 12 games tying his season high. Yoenis Cespedes was unable to continue his streak of games with an RBI, going 0 for 4 and ending his run six.

DONALDSON PUNISHES ASTROS

Donaldson's second inning home run was his fifth against the Astros this season. .

ON DECK

Athletics: Following an off-day Thursday, the A's will start Sonny Gray at home against Kansas City. He will go for his 13th win and build on his 2.65 ERA

Astros: Jarred Cosart (9-7, 4.41) will start Friday night at home against Toronto.

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