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June 16, 2013
Melvin: Colon bolsters All-Star candidacy in A's 10-2 win

OAKLAND -- It's mid-June, about the time that All-Star buzz starts to percolate around baseball. And your American League co-leader in wins as of Sunday? You guessed it -- Bartolo Colon, who improved to 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA in the A's 10-2 win over Seattle at the Coliseum.

"How can he not be in the conversation?" A's manager Bob Melvin said after the game. "He was before that start, for me, part of the conversation. The ERA, everything. What he's meant to our team. Yeah, he's definitely, I would think, a guy that's a frontrunner as far as guys in the rotation."

While the game is still a month away -- Melvin said this afternoon that A.L. manager Jim Leyland hasn't even contacted him yet for input on possible selections -- it's probably not too early to start looking around the league. Clay Buchholz is off to a stellar start for the Red Sox -- 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. Max Scherzer is 9-0 for Detroit and striking out more than a batter an inning. Yu Darvish has the most strikeouts in baseball and came within an out of a perfect game in April. Justin Verlander is always in the discussion. And don't forget about the pitcher Colon bested on Sunday -- the Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma, who despite taking the loss against the A's is 7-2 with a 2.06 ERA.

Nothing to sniff at there. In addition, any discussion of Colon's All-Star candidacy is sure to be accompanied by mention of his 50-game suspension last year for PED, though there are likely also those who will argue Colon served his time and ought to be recognized for his contributions as long as no more concrete PED links arise.

What's not arguable is that Colon has been the A's most consistent starter this year, and that he's doing it in his age 40 season with a style that basically challenges hitters to beat him in the strike zone, where he typically throws about 70 percent of pitches in a start.

The Mariners nearly did so Sunday, collecting seven hits in the first two innings. Colon, though, stranded two runners in the first and danced out of a potentially disastrous inning in the second with the help of a shoestring catch by right fielder Josh Reddick.

After Endy Chavez drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single, Nick Franklin singled to re-load the bases for No. 3 hitter Kyle Seager. Seager hit a sharp line drive to right that looked like a sure hit, but it hung up just long enough for Reddick to race in, make the catch and rifle a throw home that kept Mike Zunino at third base. Colon retired Kendrys Morales on a fly ball to left to end the inning and allowed one hit the rest of the way.

"I can say that one was the best play in that inning," Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "Right after he makes that play, I feel like I'm ready to get the next guys out. So that one was the best play in the game."

Melvin said he was "probably one hitter away" from getting somebody up in the bullpen, which would have been a problem with the A's hoping to save their relievers for a four-game series in the hitters' paradise that is the Texas Rangers' stadium. Instead, Reddick's catch was the beginning of 12 batters in a row retired by Colon.

"Quite a recovery," Melvin said.

Colon threw 45 pitches in the first two innings but used just 52 more to complete seven.

"His two-seamer it seemed like was catching the big part of the plate early on," catcher John Jaso said. "Then after (the second), he dialed it in and started putting it where he wanted to. And then he mixed in some sliders here and there to keep them off-balance."

Colon is now 6-0 with a 1.04 ERA in his last six starts. He projects to have four more starts before the All-Star break -- against the Mariners in Seattle, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in Oakland, and the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Should Colon be invited to the festivities at CitiField in New York, Reddick said: "I think we would all be watching." And Colon's take on the possibility?

"I don't think nothing about that," he said.

* It was an all-around day for Reddick, who made a couple nice catches in right field and had his first four-hit game since last May 11. That included a triple and an eighth-inning home run off reliever Carter Capps on a 3-1 pitch that Reddick crushed just right of dead center field.

After the wrist injury that hampered him for the early part of the year, Reddick's average has been creeping up steadily since he was reinstated from the disabled list on May 31. He came off the DL batting .152. That mark is now at .211.

"The last few weeks coming off of it, I felt like I've been swinging the bat great, lining out, hitting the ball hard but right at guys," Reddick said. "To find some holes today was really good. It's good not to go back to the dugout frustrated."

Melvin said a game like Sunday can be "huge for (Reddick). He squared up several balls today, that last one's hit a long way on a line. Lot of things for him to feel good about."

Among them was the significance of the day, which Reddick was wearing on his sleeve -- literally. Reddick had the name of his father, Kenny, inked on the tape around his forearm during the game. Kenny has lived for most of his son's life missing his left arm and two fingers on his right hand as the result of a work accident involving a high-voltage electric line in 1988.

"Considering one false move 25 years ago and he's not here anymore, and for him to come this far in life considering what he went through, it is amazing," Reddick said. "And I want to let him know I'm happy he's here, and not let a day go by to regret life.

"I know he's proud and he's happy, but you can never tell your parents enough how happy you are that they're here and still supporting you."

Reddick said he hadn't gotten a hold of his father yet Sunday over the phone to wish him a happy Father's Day. "But I'm going to call him when we head over to the plane and get a hold of him," he said.

* This is the focus of tomorrow's print story, but one effect of the A's teeing off on the Mariners' bullpen late was overshadowing the significance of a fifth-inning decision by third-base coach Mike Gallego to send Jaso home from first base on a double by Yoenis Cespedes in what was then a 2-2 game.

Endy Chavez, playing center field a day after throwing Jed Lowrie out from shallow right when Lowrie tried to tag up on a fifth-inning fly ball, played Cespedes' hit off the foot of the wall in left-center and threw in to Brendan Ryan, who made an accurate relay home. Jaso, though, executed a headfirst dive to the outer part of the plate and swiped it with his hand ahead of the tag by Mike Zunino.

It seemed a particularly bold call in light of the fact that the A's had had runners thrown out at the plate in each of their previous three games. Brandon Moss was thrown out as the potential game-winning run in the 15th inning on Thursday. On Friday, Nate Freiman was waved around third despite having slowed up on a single up the middle after the ball was bobbled in center field.

Melvin was asked about it before Sunday's game and chalked the Moss and Lowrie plays up to having to force the issue in certain situations. The A's were trying to put an end to Thursday's game and scratch across a run in a scoreless tie against Felix Hernandez on Saturday (it ended up being their best chance to score in a 4-0 loss).

Still, Gallego said Sunday the plays hadn't sat well with him. "Hell yeah it weighs on you," he said. "And it's tough because as a third-base coach you try not to get caught up in how things are going out there, you try to stay focused on the situation at hand.

"(On Sunday's play), Jaso I know is one of our better baserunners. And the read that he got off the ball, he broke right away and got a nice turn around second base.

"In a normal situation I probably would've held him up. But we hadn't been scoring many runs. And when you've got two pitchers like that you've got to take advantage of any opportunity you get, because you know there's not going to be too many opportunities out there."

Asked if he was surprised to see Gallego telling him to score, Jaso, who runs well for a catcher, said he wasn't sure. He had seen Chavez approaching the ball as he came around second, "so I wasn't going to go unless Gags was really sending me.

"But Gags is good with it," Jaso said. "He knows how hard it is to push runs across the board, and he knows with a guy like (Iwakuma), you've got to make the outfielders throw you out.

"If he is safe, it builds great momentum in your favor. So you take advantage. You don't leave a guy stranded out there when you've had an opportunity to see if he can score."

Along with Jaso's read off the bat, Gallego said he was influenced to send Jaso because he saw Chavez hesitate ever so slightly after fielding the carom off the wall. This despite the fact that he was "well aware of (Chavez's) arm strength" and the fact that Ryan is "one of the best at relays." Jaso was safe, and it gave the A's their first lead of the series against a pitcher who had owned them in two previous starts this season.

"It was a risky play, an aggressive play," Gallego said. "I'm just glad that he came out safe. Sometimes you've got to take a shot."

* With the win, the A's avoided being swept at home for the first time since last September and now head to Texas with a three-game lead over the second-place Rangers in the West.

"It's a team that's scuffling right now," Reddick said of Texas. "We've just got to prevent them from getting back on the horse."

It's Dan Straily (4-2, 4.45 ERA) and Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.30) in the opener tomorrow. First pitch at 5:05 p.m. PT.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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