OAKLAND A's manager Bob Melvin reasoned Sunday that the length of a season lends itself to times when an otherwise consistent player goes through struggles.
The A's had not won behind All-Star Bartolo Colon in his previous five starts, but with the A's in the final weeks of a playoff race, Melvin said, "Hopefully he's through that."
Providing the potential remedy for Colon to get back on track Sunday were the Houston Astros, owners of the American League's second-lowest-scoring offense.
Four pitches in, Colon already had allowed two hits and a run. But with his final 90, the right-hander finished six innings of the A's 7-2 win, giving up just three more hits in his first win since July 26.
Since that day, Colon had been stuck on 14 wins, one away from being the first pitcher to record 15 in a season for four A.L. teams. He has that distinction now adding the A's to the Angels, Indians and White Sox and the A's still hold a 1 1/2-game lead in the West over the Rangers, who beat the Angels on Sunday.
Trailing the Rangers by three games when they arrived home from Detroit on Aug. 30, the A's went 8-2 on their 10-game homestand against the Rays, Rangers and Astros to reclaim sole possession of first place. At this point last year, they had only one fewer win than their current total of 83 but were three games behind Texas.
They were also without Colon, who has a 2.20 ERA since May 20 despite a rocky last month that was interrupted by a groin strain. Colon had allowed 12 earned runs and 29 hits in four starts before Sunday and hadn't pitched past the fifth inning in any of them. Sunday, after Jonathan Villar singled leading off the game and scored on Jose Altuve's double, Colon didn't allow another runner past second until the sixth.
"That was vintage Bartolo, so to speak," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "He was moving the ball around sinking it. Had good velocity and good life on the ball."
Vogt said Colon showed "maybe a little more command than in the previous few (starts), but for the most part he's the same pitcher he's been."
Colon consistently hit 92-93 mph with his fastball, more in the range he showed early in the season before going on the disabled list because of a groin strain in mid-August.
"I feel like I have more power than (in) the last outings," Colon said.
With the A's leading 7-1 after the sixth, thanks to a seven-run third inning, Melvin took Colon out after 94 pitches and gave the ball to Brett Anderson, who recorded his third three-inning save since rejoining the A's in the bullpen.
Colon said he was unaware of the history he had set Sunday but "(felt) pride" when asked about it.
"That's a great accomplishment for somebody, and it's an honor to catch a guy like that," Vogt said. "I'm not surprised by any means that he's done that. He's a consistent starter."
All of the A's runs in the third came with two outs. Brandon Moss hit a two-run double off Astros starter Lucas Harrell and scored on Yoenis Cespedes' single. After Harrell walked Alberto Callaspo and Daric Barton singled, designated hitter Seth Smith hit a 3-1 fastball into the right-field seats to give the A's a 7-1 lead.
The homer improved Smith's lifetime numbers against Harrell to 5 for 7 with six RBIs. Harrell, thrust into the start after Paul Clemens was a late scratch because of a blister, has pitched 13 1/3 innings against the A's this year and allowed 21 runs. He will not face them again in 2013. The A's bade farewell to the Astros having won the season series 15-4.
Notes Josh Donaldson (right quadriceps strain) was not in the A's lineup for just the third time in 143 games this season. Melvin said the A's wanted to get Donaldson, who tweaked the quad Saturday, two days of rest in hopes he'll be back in the lineup Tuesday.
Reliever Dan Otero was expected to leave the team Sunday night and fly to Arizona to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Melvin said Otero likely will rejoin the A's on Wednesday in Minnesota.