HOUSTON -- Before Monday's 7-3 loss to the Astros, the one thing about A's starter Jesse Chavez that was consistent through good times and bad was his ability to keep the ball in the park.

He came into Houston having allowed just one homer in his last eight starts, and he'd never allowed more than two homers in a game in his big league career. Monday, he allowed three home runs to the Astros, who are nobody's idea of murderers' row.

The Astros finished with four homers on the night as for the third time in three series Oakland dropped the first game of the set.

"I've just got to think of it as my mulligan for the year," Chavez said. "I've got to get back out there and know it won't happen again."

For the moment, the A's have bigger concerns than four homers allowed and one loss. They discovered Monday they will be without center fielder Craig Gentry when an MRI revealed what a Sunday X-ray didn't: a nondisplaced fracture in his right hand, near the wrist. Gentry was hit by a pitch during a bunt attempt against the Rangers on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

The A's are hoping Gentry will miss just a couple of weeks. But with the club's other center fielder, Coco Crisp, having an MRI of his own late Monday in the Bay Area because of a lingering neck problem, Oakland is having its depth tested. The A's called up Billy Burns from Double-A Midland to fill in for Gentry, although Yoenis Cespedes will get most of the starts in center with Brandon Moss taking over in left.


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"I did the same thing last year when Jarrod Parker hit me on the left hand," Gentry said. He was playing for Texas at the time. "I only missed two weeks then, and I'm hoping that's the case again this time."

Manager Bob Melvin concurred with the two-week timetable, although he also said he was looking at the bright side.

"It was disappointing news," Melvin said. "We know it's going to be two weeks, and hopefully that's it. It's a blow, but we're going to have to get past it. We're optimistic that's it, but you never really know."

Chavez had allowed two homers in a game only twice this season, the last time coming May 18. But former A's slugger Chris Carter crushed him with a three-run homer in the third inning to wipe out an early 2-0 Oakland lead.

"With Carter, I thought the height of the pitch was OK," Melvin said. "He's a pretty good low-ball hitter. He followed it up there and put a good swing on it. That was obviously a big hit in the game."

The A's came back to tie the game at 3-all on Yoenis Cespedes' sacrifice fly in the fifth. But Oakland's momentum was gone. That's where things stood when Chavez walked Carter with one out in the sixth. Jason Castro unloaded with his 10th homer, and the local fans had scarcely gotten back into their seats after celebrating a 5-3 lead when Marc Krauss homered, too.

Chavez was done, but the Astros were not. With Dan Otero in to try to close out the inning, Matt Dominguez hit the third Houston homer of the inning.

Oakland started the scoring in the second inning on a Josh Donaldson double and an RBI single from Derek Norris. An inning later, Stephen Vogt went deep to right for his fifth homer, giving Chavez a 2-0 lead.

It would not prove to be enough.

With the Angels off, Oakland's lead in the American League West fell to 1½ games, exactly the lead the A's had at the All-Star break.

  • Burns got to the park in the third inning and debuted as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, flying out. Burns, a switch-hitter, was hitting .250 with one homer, 23 RBIs, on-base percentage of .333 and 51 steals for Midland.

  • Vogt homered and doubled and is hitting .393 (33 for 84) over his last 23 games.

  • To make room on the 40-man roster for Burns, the A's designated for assignment Triple-A outfielder Kenny Wilson, whom they had claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this season.

    For more on the A's, see John Hickey's Inside the A's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JHickey3.

    Tuesday's game
    A's (Jeff Samardzija 4-8) at Houston (Scott Feldman 4-8), 5:10 p.m. CSNCA