OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two pitchers who figure to have big rooting audiences are scheduled to go head-to-head Wednesday night when the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics continue their three-game series.
The Astros got the jump on the A's in the series opener Tuesday, winning 6-3 on the strength of Evan Gattis' career-best five RBIs and Lance McCullers Jr.'s strong seven-inning outing.
In an attempt to beat the A's for the seventh time in eight meetings this season, the Astros will send right-hander Gerrit Cole (7-1, 2.16 ERA) to face Oakland righty Paul Blackburn (1-0, 1.50).
Cole, a native of Newport Beach, Calif., near Los Angeles, has pitched brilliantly in his home state in his major league career. The UCLA product, who spent his first five seasons pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates before getting dealt to the Astros over the winter, has gone 9-2 when pitching in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland.
He's 14-6 overall against the five California teams.
The 27-year-old joined the San Francisco Bay Area family on Nov. 12, 2016, when he married Amy Crawford, the sister of Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. Both Amy and Brandon attended Amador Valley High in Pleasanton, Calif., an Oakland suburb.
Cole didn't disappoint his new fans when he pitched six strong innings, allowing one run and four hits, in a 4-1 win at Oakland on May 9. It improved his career record to 1-1 with a 2.75 ERA in three starts against the A's.
Cole once again will have to deal with A's outfielder Stephen Piscotty, who attended Amador Valley at the same time as the Crawfords. Piscotty has gone 6-for-21 with two doubles in his career against Cole.
Blackburn, meanwhile, starred at Heritage High in Brentwood, Calif., which is about 40 miles northeast of Oakland.
Blackburn, acquired from the Seattle Mariners last season, has made six starts for the A's in Oakland, including one this season.
He pitched brilliantly in that lone 2018 Oakland start Thursday after being promoted from Triple-A, limiting the Kansas City Royals to one run and three hits in six innings in a 4-1 victory.
Blackburn has never lost a home start for the A's, going 2-0 in his six outings.
He has never faced the Astros.
The 24-year-old admitted the season debut coupled with his family and friends in attendance nearly got the better of him in his last start.
"I'm not usually like that," he insisted. "I have nerves coming into every start, but not like this was. I think it was excitement."
Blackburn will have to deal with another A's opponent who still commands a favorable reception in Oakland when he goes against Astros outfielder Josh Reddick.
Reddick, one of the A's clubhouse leaders during his five seasons in Oakland, was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August 2016 in a deal that brought impressive young right-hander Frankie Montas to the A's.
Reddick had two hits and scored twice Tuesday and is 4-for-11 versus the A's in Oakland this season.