Now sitting in second place, the A's will try to regain the advantage with a series at home against a woeful Houston Astros team they've dominated. A healthier Colon might have a good chance to help Tuesday night, given his recent performances against them.
The A's had a six-game lead in the division July 29 but frittered away the last of that edge with a 6-5 loss in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Colon (14-4, 2.75 ERA) gave up five runs - the most he's allowed since May - and seven hits with three walks in a season-low 2 2-3 innings.
Colon was 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his previous five outings. He said after the game, in which he threw only 37 of his 67 pitches for strikes, that he had been dealing with a stomach virus.
"It is no excuse," he said through interpreter Ariel Prieto . "I wasn't throwing strikes like I did before the All-Star game."
Oakland (67-50) kept its deficit behind red-hot Texas at one game by winning the last two days in Toronto after dropping seven of nine. Alberto Callaspo helped give his team a 5-1 victory Monday by hitting his second tiebreaking two-run double in as many days.
"Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for us," first baseman Brandon Moss told the team's website.
The A's will try to keep heading in the right direction against a major league-worst Astros team that has lost 31 of 38. Houston (37-80) was no-hit through 7 1-3 innings in a 2-1 loss to Texas on Monday, its season high-tying sixth in a row.
Oakland is 16-2 all-time against the Astros and 11-1 this season, hitting 18 homers and averaging 6.7 runs. The A's have never lost in six home games versus Houston, including three from April 15-17.
Colon is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts against the Astros this year without walking a batter. The right-hander has a chance to join Detroit's Max Scherzer as the majors' only pitchers to reach the 15-win mark.
He'll pitch opposite a struggling Jordan Lyles (4-6, 5.40). The right-hander is 0-3 with an 11.17 ERA in his last four starts after losing to Boston last Tuesday, getting charged with eight runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 15-10 defeat.
"My bad outings have been bad, real bad," Lyles said. "I'm just trying to stay away from them."
Lyles will face Oakland for the first time, but Chris Young has plenty of experience against him, going 5 for 9 with a home run and a double.
The A's are hoping Coco Crisp can return after sitting out Monday with an injured wrist. He's batting a team-best .386 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 11 games versus Houston this season.
Jason Castro , riding a 10-game hit streak, is batting a team-best .375 with three homers this season against Oakland. Castro and Jose Altuve missed Monday's game because of nagging injuries, but neither is considered serious.
|August 07, 2013||Jonathan Villar||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained hand|
|July 31, 2013||Brandon Barnes||Day-to-Day||Lower back tightness|
|July 27, 2013||Jose Altuve||Day-to-Day||Left quad tightness|
|July 27, 2013||J.D. Martinez||15-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|July 23, 2013||Brandon Barnes||Day-to-Day||Left game - mild left calf strain|
|July 09, 2013||Ronny Cedeno||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left toe|
|August 11, 2013||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Left wrist|
|July 25, 2013||John Jaso||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 20, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|June 29, 2013||Jarrod Parker||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring cramp|
|June 20, 2013||Derek Norris||Day-to-Day||Left game - groin injury|
|June 11, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Bartolo Colon 's velocity was up but so was his fastball.
After four months of dominant outings and even talk of a possible run at another Cy Young Award, the 40-year-old Colon has looked extremely average in his last two outings.
Even the Houston Astros are knocking Oakland's All-Star right-hander around at this point.
Colon, who had defeated Houston three times already this season, gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings of the Athletics' 5-4 loss to the Astros on Tuesday night.
"The guy has been really good for us this year and he's had a couple of starts where the velocity hasn't been as good, but it looked like it was up a little bit today," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "It looked like the pitches that he made in the middle of the plate, they hit."
Colon, who has already logged more innings than he did in all of 2012, walked one with three strikeouts. He has allowed 10 earned runs over his last two outings while his ERA has risen from 2.50 to 2.97.
Yet after the game the burly pitcher insisted he's fine, though he acknowledged he's been "very bad" over his last two starts.
"I felt better than the last outing, but I feel bad at the same time because my command wasn't the best tonight," Colon said. "After having 15 good outings, I don't think too much about it. Now is the bad moment."
Jordan Lyles pitched seven innings for his first win in nearly two months, while Brandon Barnes doubled twice and drove in two runs as the Astros snapped a six-game losing streak.
Yoenis Cespedes singled, doubled and homered for Oakland, which nearly won the game on Chris Young 's long foul ball that was reviewed, but missed a chance to move percentage points ahead of Texas in the AL West.
With a runner on first base in the ninth, Young hit an 0-1 pitch from Chia-Jen Lo down the left-field line. The ball curved just outside the foul pole and third base umpire Doug Eddings immediately ruled it foul.
After Melvin came out to argue the call, the four umpires went underneath the stands to review the play before confirming the original ruling. Young struck out on the next pitch to end the game.
"I thought it was going to stay true," Young said. "From my point of view, I thought it was fair."
Juan Castro singled in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games, scored a run and added a sacrifice fly for Houston. Matt Dominguez added two hits, including one of four doubles off Colon, who lost in his second bid to become the first pitcher in major league history to win 15 games in a season with four American League teams.
The Astros had dropped 11 of the first 12 games this season between the division rivals before knocking Colon (14-5) out of the game early and holding off a late rally.
"Jordan pitched a great game and the offense did just enough to win the game," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "It's a big boost for the club and a big boost for the bullpen to get some big outs."
Lyles (5-6) sailed through his first career appearance against the A's. He gave up five hits, allowed only one runner past second base and got Oakland to ground into two double plays.
That ended an eight-start winless stretch for the Houston right-hander, who had been 0-5 since his last victory on June 18.
Houston's bullpen made Lyles sweat it out.
Josh Reddick singled in Jed Lowrie in the eighth and Cespedes followed with a two-out, two-run home run off Josh Zeid to pull the A's within 5-4. After Kevin Chapman replaced Zeid and hit pinch-hitter Nate Freiman , Lo got Josh Donaldson to fly out to center.
Lo recorded the final four outs for his first career save.
The loss prevented Oakland from moving back into first place in the West after Texas lost to Milwaukee. The Rangers moved in front of the A's over the weekend while sweeping a four-game series from the Astros.
"That's how the game goes sometimes," Young said. "It goes from extremely crappy to amazing to unbelievable to crappy again. A full process, all in a 3 1/2-hour period today."
Barnes got into a lengthy battle with Colon in the second before doubling in Castro and Dominguez to put the Astros up 2-0.
After Castro and former A's first baseman Chris Carter drove in runs in the third, Barnes doubled again leading off the fourth and scored on a double play to make it 5-0.
The A's scored their first run in the fifth when Donaldson tripled and scored on a double play.
Notes: Eight of Houston's nine starters had at least one hit. ... Castro returned to the Astros lineup after sitting out two games with a hip injury. ... CF Coco Crisp was held out of the A's lineup with a sore left wrist he hurt diving for a catch on Sunday. He pinch ran in the eighth. ... Injured Oakland C John Jaso flew to Pittsburgh to see a specialist regarding his concussion. Jaso has been on the disabled list since July 25. ... A's LHP Brett Anderson (ankle) pitched one simulated inning before the game and will pitch two innings of relief for Triple-A Sacramento (PCL) on Saturday.