OAKLAND – There's a very good chance that, at some point over the next month and a half, A's right-hander Bartolo Colon will become the first pitcher to win 15 games in a season for four different American League teams.
With Colon one win away, Tuesday appeared to be a good candidate for the occasion – he was pitching at home, where he hadn't allowed more than two runs in a start since mid-May, against a Houston Astros team he'd beaten three times this season. Instead, Colon saw his night end abruptly after four innings in the A's 5-4 loss, the second start in a row in which the 40-year-old All-Star has looked quite hittable.
Coming off his shortest outing of the season in Cincinnati – 22/3 innings, in which the Reds tagged him for five runs – Colon allowed five runs and seven hits to the Astros, who had scored four off him in 19 previous innings. The 10 runs Colon has given up in two August starts are more than he allowed in all of July.
"I felt good, better than my last outing," Colon said. "My command just wasn't there."
The A's cut the early five-run deficit to one in the eighth inning on Josh Reddick's RBI single and a two-run home run by Yoenis Cespedes off reliever Josh Zeid. But Chris Young's bid for a two-out walk-off homer in the ninth inning curved inches outside the foul pole and, after the play was reviewed, Young struck out to end the game.
So consistent has Colon been this summer that the Cincinnati game snapped a streak of 15 starts in which he lasted at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs.
Colon still entered Tuesday with the majors' lowest ERA since May 20 (1.92) among pitchers with at least 78 innings, but that mark began to rise in the second inning.
After retiring the side on 13 pitches in the first, the typically economical Colon needed 34 in a two-run second that included a leadoff walk to Jason Castro and RBI doubles by Matt Dominguez and Brandon Barnes.
Houston added two in the third and one in the fourth, when Colon allowed back-to-back hits to start the inning but limited the damage.
After failing to complete five innings just once in his first 22 starts, Colon has lasted a combined 6 1/2 in his past two. After a few outings in which his velocity appeared to be down, though, Colon hit the low 90s fairly consistently again Tuesday but paid for several location mistakes.
Asked if the back-to-back rough outings were cause for concern, manager Bob Melvin sounded cautiously optimistic.
"The guy's been really good for us this year and he's had a couple starts where the velocity wasn't as good, but it looked like it was back up (Tuesday)," Melvin said. "We'll see going forward."
Despite the quick exit, Colon surpassed his innings total from his suspension-shortened 2012 season and, at 1541/3 innings, is 10 innings from his total with the Yankees in 2011 – the most he has thrown since his Cy Young year with the Angels in 2005. It's one of six 15-win seasons for Colon, who also got there with the Indians and White Sox.
Melvin said before the game, when asked if there has been talk of giving Colon extra rest in September ahead of a potential playoff run, that the A's will "monitor that each and every time out." Colon, though, said he isn't reading too much into his past two starts – or about his innings total.
"I never feel tired," Colon said.
Et cetera – Brett Anderson threw 28 pitches off the Coliseum mound in a simulated game Tuesday and will make a rehab outing at Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday, Melvin said. Anderson will throw two innings in relief, marking his first game action since April 29. The River Cats play Tucson at home Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Catcher John Jaso was in Pittsburgh on Tuesday to see Dr. Michael Collins, an expert in sports-related concussions, after he continued to experience symptoms while trying to play catch a few days ago, Melvin said.