- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Making his Major League debut on Monday night, Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers took the mound in black cleats with yellow Batman logos.

Although the Astros lost 2-1 to the Oakland Athletics, it wasn’t a dark night for McCullers, who looked unhittable at times.

McCullers allowed one run and three hits with five strikeouts but walked three in 4 2-3 innings as the Astros had a five-game winning streak snapped.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch said he was more impressed by McCullers’ pitches than the cleats.

“With that kind of breaking ball, I guess you say you can do whatever you want as long as you keep that breaking ball in the zone,” Hinch said.

McCullers pitched exclusively at Double-A Corpus Christi this season, posting a 3-1 record with a 0.62 ERA and 43 strikeouts in four starts. At 21 years and 288 days, he became the youngest Astros starting pitcher since Jordan Lyles in 2011.

He still has to learn to pitch efficiently.

Like he had done throughout his brief minor-league career, McCullers struggled with pitch count. McCullers only made it past the fifth inning in one of his four starts this year.

“My strikeout pitch kind of disappeared there in the second,” McCullers said. “I had some guys in counts where I’m used to getting outs in. I just wasn’t able to put them away, which led to some walks.”

Joe Thatcher entered the game in relief and struck out Josh Reddick to end the fifth inning.

“First night, adrenaline pumping, he made some really good pitches for strikeouts,” Hinch said. “He’ll get more pitch efficient as he gets away from that first-game adrenaline. Obviously, we want to get five out of him, and he came close to that. For a Major League debut and with all the attention around him, I thought he handled it really well.”

Brett Lawrie hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the sixth, and the Oakland bullpen combined for 4 2-3 scoreless innings as the Athletics snapped a four-game losing streak.

Lawrie’s hit came off Will Harris who came on in relief of Thatcher (0-1), who gave up an infield single and two walks to load the bases with no outs.

Edward Mujica (2-1) went 1 2-3 innings for the win, Evan Scribner threw two innings and Tyler Clippard pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

Harris escaped further damage in the sixth, getting Sam Fuld to ground back to the pitcher for a force at home and then Eric Sogard to hit into a double play.

Evan Gattis’ sacrifice fly scored Jose Altuve to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the first, but Sogard’s RBI single in the second tied it.

George Springer sent a deep drive to center in the eighth, but Fuld made a catch running up Tal’s Hill.

“It’s not really a fun spot to hit it to,” Springer said. “You’ve got to get all of it. Unfortunately, he made a good play on it tonight.”

OFF NIGHT FOR ALTUVE

Altuve’s 29-game hitting streak against Oakland came to an end Monday night with an 0-for-3 night. Altuve’s streak was the second-longest hitting streak ever against the Athletics, behind Luke Appling’s 31-game hitting streak from 1939-40.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: 2B Ben Zobrist, on the 15-day DL with a knee injury, is scheduled to make a rehabilitation start and play five innings for Triple-A Stockton on Tuesday. Melvin said Zobrist will do some base running before the game as part of his rehab. “He feels great as it is right now,” Melvin said. “They’ve been taking him through rigors more so than what he’s going to have to deal with in a game. He was sliding (Sunday). He’s been tweaking his sliding a little bit so he doesn’t have to slide on that knee, on that spot.”

Astros: Houston placed RHP Samuel Deduno (lower back strain) on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 14 and transferred SS Jed Lowrie (thumb surgery) to the 60-day DL. Hinch said Deduno’s injury isn’t serious but that he needed a few games to deal with it. “We hope it’s not going to disrupt too deep into the season,” Hinch said. “But he’ll be shut down from throwing for a couple of days to calm his back down and then we’ll get him back up and running again.”

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Sonny Gray (4-1) will be looking to bounce back from his first loss of the season, a 2-0 loss to Boston on Wednesday. Gray leads the AL with a 1.61 ERA.

Astros: RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-3) has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts.

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