The first half of the season is over, but the narrative remains the same.
The A's continue to lack hospitality in the Astros' first season as members of the American League West. Oakland, division leaders by three games over the Rangers and reigning AL West champs, are now 10-0 against the Astros this season after Josh Reddick clubbed a go-ahead two-run home run in Monday's 4-3 win at Minute Maid Park.
Houston right-hander Jarred Cosart will look to change his hometown team's fortunes when he takes the mound on Tuesday in the Astros' second-to-last contest before a 10-game road trip.
Cosart's start will be his first at home for the rookie, who was stellar in his Major League debut, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh and beating the Rays, 2-1, on July 12.
Cosart grew up cheering for the Astros and attended the World Series in Houston in 2005. He's a huge Houston sports fan, who was drafted by the Phillies before the Astros acquired him in 2011 in the Hunter Pence trade. He's been one of their top pitching prospects ever since.
"I couldn't have asked for any better way to come out of the gate. They were one of the hottest teams in baseball," Cosart said of the Rays, who have won 18 of 20. "To go out there and have an outing like I did, it was a very special time. Like I said before, that's in the past and now I have to focus on the A's, who are on fire. I know the Astros haven't beaten them this year, and that will be another challenge."
Cosart said he's leaving 75 tickets for family, but plenty of friends are buying their own.
"It's been a crazy week, and to top it off making my first home start, it's going to be something I'll never forget," he said. "I'll have to put the nerves aside and try to not do too much. Just go out there and try to pitch like I know I'm capable of."
Opposite Cosart will be Jarrod Parker, who'll be working on 12 days of rest and has allowed five hits or fewer in each of his last nine starts, holding the opposition to a .172 average in that time. Not surprisingly, he hasn't lost any of those starts.
Over the last two months, Parker has lowered his ERA by more than two runs, and he's been one of the better pitchers in the AL since mid-May. He hasn't surrendered more than three runs in a start since May 6.
Prospect Villar bats leadoff in big league debut
The Astros didn't give rookie shortstop Jonathan Villar much time to get acclimated to life as a Major Leaguer, putting him in the leadoff spot for his big league debut on Monday.
Villar, the 12th-ranked prospect in the Astros' system by MLB.com (Cosart is No. 4), had a bunt single in his second at-bat, then stole second and and scored on Chris Carter's two-out single to give the Astros a 2-0 lead in the third.
Villar, 22, was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City following Sunday's game after hitting .278 with 16 doubles, eight triples, eight homers, 41 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 90 games this season. Manager Bo Porter said Villar will be given every chance to show what he can do at the position.
"It's sink or swim," Porter said. "You look at the skill sets, and the skill sets will tell you he has an opportunity to be successful. We're in a position we can give him the opportunity, and if there are struggles we can stick with the struggles, because we believe at the end of the day the skill sets are going to show through."
Cespedes again sits, remains day to day
As expected, Yoenis Cespedes remained out of the A's lineup on Monday, and his chances of playing on Tuesday appear slim, since he's yet to even take batting practice.
Manager Bob Melvin said the plan is for the left fielder, who is dealing with a sore left wrist, to take batting practice on Tuesday, making a Wednesday or Thursday return more likely.
But Melvin didn't rule out the possibility of Cespedes playing on Tuesday.
"If everything goes well, and he doesn't feel any soreness, he'll take batting practice tomorrow," Melvin said. "He did everything in the cage today, from soft toss to tee work, everything but live hitting, and felt good."
Cespedes has missed Oakland's four games since the All-Star break.
• The A's have outscored the Astros, 72-34, this season.
• The A's were charged with three errors, went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base on Monday but still pulled out the win.
• Houston, which has lost six in a row, has dropped 14 straight games at home against division opponents.
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.