OAKLAND, Calif. -- The leadoff home run by Jose Altuve was hardly what frustrated Rich Hill the most. It was the three walks and the sacrifice fly he gave up in the third inning that left Oakland's left-hander shaking his head.
Hill allowed just two hits in six innings, but the Athletics stranded four runners in scoring position and lost to the Houston Astros 2-1 on Sunday.
"They just did a good job in the third inning," Hill said following his third consecutive home loss. "My curveball wasn't hitting early on and it came back in the fifth and sixth inning, but by that time they had already done their job."
Altuve homered leading off a game for the fourth time this season - one of only two hits by Houston - to help the Astros avoid a series sweep.
Doug Fister (2-3) gave up one run over 6 2/3 innings to end his three-game losing streak. Fister walked one, struck out five and pitched out of a pair of early jams to win his first start at the Coliseum in nearly two years.
Hill (3-3) nearly matched Fister, but the A's came up short and fell to 5-4 in one-run games.
Oakland loaded the bases in the second but failed to score and stranded runners at third after that, including in the seventh when Jed Lowrie flied out to end the inning.
"If we swung the bats better, a lot of times that's enough," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "We had some opportunities if someone gets a big hit. We just weren't able to do it."
Altuve hit his seventh home run of the season on a 1-1 pitch from Hill after going hitless in the first two games of this series between AL West rivals.
Jason Castro singled and scored on Colby Rasmus' sacrifice fly in the third for Houston, which finished 2-4 on its road trip.
"I thought I threw a pretty good curveball (to Altuve)," Hill said. "It was probably too much of a strike, but he did his job putting the bat on the ball and came out on top. Home runs are going to happen, but they did a good job in the third inning of capitalizing on my mistakes."
Marcus Semien drove in Oakland's run with a single in the seventh.
Tony Sipp, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson completed the eight-hitter for Houston. Gregerson pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Houston needed the strong pitching after squandering numerous chances at the plate. The Astros left the bases loaded in the third, stranded a runner at second in the fourth and then hit into a double play to end the seventh following a one-out walk to Castro.
"We maximized our hits as best we could," manager A.J. Hinch said.
NO BROOM NEEDED
The A's have not swept a series of three games or longer at home since taking four straight from Toronto from July 3-6, 2014.
PLAYING CATCH WITH FANS
The A's held Little League day at the Coliseum but it was Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte who seemed to have the most fun. As is his custom on the road, Bracamonte spent part of pregame playing catch with fans in the stands near Houston's bullpen. Bracamonte threw the ball back and forth with several people, including some in the second deck.
Oakland RHP Henderson Alvarez (shoulder surgery) is getting closer to joining the team. Alvarez threw 48 pitches over four innings Friday and the team hopes to stretch him out to 75 pitches on Thursday. "We're getting to the point where we're starting to get excited about it," Melvin said.
Athletics RHP Kendall Graveman (1-2) starts against Seattle on Monday. Graveman allowed six runs in his last outing after giving up four runs total over his first three appearances.