Are the A's this good or are the Houston Astros this bad?

Less than three weeks into the season, it's too early to tell. But after the A's 7-5 win Wednesday, they own the best record in the American League at 12-4 in large part to being 6-0 against Houston. The new team in the A.L. West lost more than 100 games in each of the past two seasons, and there is no indication the Astros are any better this year.

The A's, on the other hand, won the West title last year and remain a force in the division.

"It doesn't matter what team it is, but they are in a rebuilding phase," said A's shortstop Jed Lowrie, who played for Houston last year. "We came in and took care of business. That's what it takes. You've got to beat the people you're supposed to beat."

The A's aren't at full strength. Cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes is on the disabled list. First baseman Brandon Moss is on paternity leave. Center fielder Coco Crisp had Wednesday off.

Still, Oakland scored six runs against Astros opening day starter Bud Norris, taking him out of the game in the first inning. The A's were never behind, even if the Astros put on a little push in the final innings.

The A's are now scheduled to play three successive series against A.L. East opponents, starting with the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox on the road, then coming home to face the Baltimore Orioles for four games. It's a 10-day stretch that may reveal the A's ability to compete against better teams.

"It's the travel (more than changing divisions)," manager Bob Melvin said. "But we do have an off-day (Thursday). Now it is time to move on (from the West)."

The Rays are 5-9, but Tampa Bay has won at least 90 games each of the past three seasons.

"Tampa isn't playing as well right now as it will play," Lowrie said. "We've just got to play as well as we can."