OAKLAND – The A’s had everything lined up in their favor Tuesday night. They were playing at the Coliseum, the first-place Rangers lost and the majors’ worst team occupied the other dugout.
Oh, and the A’s also happened to have ace Bartolo Colon on the mound, while the Houston Astros countered with Jordan Lyles, a pitcher that before Tuesday last won a game almost two months ago.
Yet, something happened on the way to that expected easy victory, as the Astros roughed up Colon early and often en route to a 5-4 victory in front of 14,261.
In the process, the A’s squandered a chance to move into a tie in the American League West with the Rangers, who lost to the Brewers on Tuesday.
The A’s came close to pulling off an improbable comeback when Chris Young smoked a ball over the left-field fence for what appeared to be a walk-off, two-run home run.
Instead, third-base umpire Doug Eddings signaled foul ball. Athletics manager Bob Melvin argued the call and convinced the umpiring crew to review the call.
After a short review, the umpires upheld Eddings’ call. Television replays showed that Eddings, indeed, made the proper call. Young struck out on the next pitch to end the game.
Young said he felt as if the ball was going to stay fair. He and Melvin said they appreciated the umpires making sure they got the call right.
“I got the pitch was looking for and almost did what I planned on doing with it,” Young said. “So, it’s just tough luck on that one.”
Colon failed for the third straight time in his quest to win his 15th game of the season. Once again, he didn’t even last long enough to qualify for a win.
Colon struggled from the outset. He allowed two runs in the second and third innings. Both times, Colon didn’t do himself any favors.
In the second inning, he issued a leadoff walk to catcher Jason Castro. In the third, Colon failed to cover first base on a one-hopper to first baseman Brandon Moss. Both runners scored.
The Colon of late bears little resemblance to the one that breezed through the first four months of the season.
He went 15 straight starts without allowing more than three runs, earned or not, before he got roughed up for five by the Reds in only 2 2/3 innings last Wednesday.
Colon said through an interpreter that bad outings are going to happen over the course of a long season. They just happen to be coming in succession.
“I feel good,” Colon said. “My command wasn’t the best.”
Melvin said he was encouraged by the fact that Colon’s velocity returned to normal Tuesday.
“It looked like the pitches he made in the middle of the plate, they hit,” Melvin said of the Astros.
The five runs the Astros managed off Colon made it back-to-back outings with that many allowed. Worse, the Astros needed only four innings to turn the trick.
So much for the A’s easing into a nine-game home stand with three games against an Astros team they defeated 11 times in 12 games before Tuesday. It was the Astros that looked as if they have the A’s number.
While Colon struggled, Lyles breezed through seven innings and experienced few jams. The A’s managed seven base runners and one run off Lyles.
The A’s broke through for three runs in the eighth, with the final two coming on a home run by Yoenis Cespedes.
Melvin was asked before the game if he intended to lighten Colon’s workload in September. He said that process started earlier this month, when Colon received a couple of extra days between starts.
It’s worth noting that Colon is at 154 1/3 innings so far, 10 innings shy of matching his heaviest workload since 2005, when he hurled 222 2/3 innings.
Then again, he was a relatively spry 32 years old that season. He’s now a 40-year-old pitching late into the season, under the pressure of a pennant race.
“I never feel tired,” Colon said, when asked if fatigue is a factor.
— Young entered Tuesday’s game 13 for 42, with three home runs, 10 RBI, 11 runs and six walks against the Astros this season. He went hitless in five at-bats Tuesday.
— Jesse Chavez pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief of Colon and didn’t allow a run. His solid outing prevented Melvin from putting added stress on his relievers.
— Cespedes went 4 for 26 on the just-concluded six-game road trip. He collected a single, double and home run in four at-bats Tuesday.