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The Oakland Athletics traded pitcher Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros shortly before the left-hander was to make his scheduled start Thursday.

Kazmir, 31, was scheduled to pitch Thursday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Oakland. He will be a free agent after this season.

Kazmir, a Houston native, is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 101 strikeouts this season.

"Scott Kazmir is one of the best pitchers in the American League and strengthens our rotation," Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said in a release. "His addition gives the Astros a better chance of reaching and succeeding in the postseason. It has been awhile since the Astros have been relevant late in the summer, and winning now is a priority."

Houston is two games behind the red-hot Angels in the AL West after leading the division for most of the season.

Heading to the A's in return are a pair of minor leaguers, catcher Jacob Nottingham and right-hander Daniel Mengden.

Nottingham, 20, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds. He was a sixth-round pick by the Astros out of Redlands (Calif.) High School in the 2013 MLB first-year player draft. In 168 professional games, he has hit .280 with an .816 OPS.

Mengden, 22, was drafted in the fourth round by Houston out of Texas A&M in 2014. He has 101 strikeouts in 99 1/3 professional innings.

Kazmir becomes the latest in a series of Oakland players to make their way to Houston through trades or free agency. Jed Lowrie, Chris Carter, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Dan Straily are among the current Astros who previously played in Oakland.

Kazmir gave Oakland's potential trade buyers cause for concern when he exited a July 8 game against the Yankees after three innings because of left triceps tendinitis. But he alleviated any concerns about his health with an impressive 8 1/3-inning performance against Minnesota on July 18.