Bay Area Baseball

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July 27, 2013
Colon ties an A's record and MLB's wins leaders in 6-4 victory

OAKLAND -- Max Scherzer pitches for the Detroit Tigers on Saturday with a chance to improve to 15-1, while Matt Moore, who's currently 14-3, is scheduled to throw Sunday for the Tampa Bay Rays against the Yankees. But at least overnight, 40-year-old Bartolo Colon is tied for the major-league lead in wins.

It's a quick turnaround to tomorrow's 12:05 start, so we'll try to keep this like a typical Colon start -- which Friday night in some ways wasn't. Colon trailed 2-0 two batters into the game after giving up his first home run since July 3 to Mike Trout. He threw 96 pitches in six innings and had two walks for only the fifth time in 21 starts this season.

But after the Trout home run, the Angels didn't get another runner past second base until the ninth inning. Colon pitched at least six innings allowing three or fewer runs for the 14th consecutive time he's taken the mound. And he improved to 14-3 this season, with most of it playing out after his 40th birthday.

"I'd be lying if I thought he'd be 14-3 right now," manager Bob Melvin said. "I have a ton of confidence in him, but I really didn't expect this from him at this point and he'd probably say the same thing."

Colon did, in so many words. Through interpreter Ariel Prieto, Colon said he "surprises myself right now" being tied for the majors lead in wins -- with a lower ERA (2.54) than either Scherzer or Moore. In his last 14 starts he's 11-1 with a 1.70 ERA. His explanation for his success this season: "Working hard and throwing strikes."

He was obviously more efficient in his complete-game shutout of the Angels five days ago. Trout quickly ended any chances of a repeat, but Colon shut the door from there and benefited from the A's scoring four runs off Jerome Williams in the first two innings. A strike-thrower most of the time anyway, Colon has said he's freer to go after hitters when he has a lead. In fact, the A's haven't lost a game this season in which they've given him a lead while Colon is on the mound.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie said it was typical Colon after the Trout homer: "From my angle it looks like he's just being aggressive, working quickly, not necessarily trying to strike guys out but just trying to put enough movement on the ball to get guys to mis-hit it and put it in play weakly."

Stephen Vogt, just recalled from Triple-A with John Jaso on the 7-day concussion DL, probably got one of his easiest assignments in Colon, who goes after hitters in his way. Vogt said he was shaken off probably "10 or 12 times" in Colon's six innings Friday, letting the veteran pitcher dictate plans of attack.

"It's fun to watch him move the ball around the zone and move the ball in and out," said Vogt, who had caught Colon once before. "He's got so much knowledge and experience. He knows what pitch to throw and when, how to throw it and manipulate it and all that kind of stuff."

Melvin said it's gotten to the point where the A's take the field behind Colon not only expecting to have a chance to win, but actually to win when Colon is starting. It seems like Colon is making that less of a far-fetched idea with every start.

* Colon credited Coco Crisp with the game's key defensive play in the third inning. For his first outfield assist since last September, Crisp caught a fly ball off the bat of Albert Pujols in medium-deep center field and threw out Trout at second base trying to tag up. It's well-known that Crisp doesn't have the strongest arm in the A's outfield, and Crisp said he figured Trout "maybe wasn't expecting it. Nor was I."

"He surprised everybody," Colon said.

Melvin said the play is "a gimme for Trout usually." Not sure if he was just talking about situations where the outfielder has a Crisp-like arm, because it didn't look as though the ball was hit that deep. But Crisp said he would have tagged up on the play as well, and Trout is known for his dynamic speed. In any event, Crisp's throw kept Trout off second base ahead of Josh Hamilton, leading Vogt to call the play a "game-changer."

* Trout, of course, had reached base by beating Colon to first base on an infield single. If that's not the mismatch of the year, it's certainly up there. First baseman Brandon Moss might have retreated to first base and let Eric Sogard field the ball for an easier play, but once Moss committed it was a do-or-die play for Colon.

Asked for his thoughts on the foot race, Colon said the only thing he could say after the play was: "Hey, this guy can run."

* The A's 3-4-5 hitters combined to go 1-for-11 with a walk in a game in which Oakland scored six runs on 10 hits. Jed Lowrie, who has been struggling for just about the entire month of July, drove in three runs in the first two innings (as many RBIs as he had all month coming into the game) and finished with three hits. Eric Sogard got things started for the A's with a two-out RBI single in the second. Vogt added his second major-league home run, which proved to be the decisive runs -- on his wife's birthday, no less.

"We always feel like we have a fairly balanced lineup," Melvin said. "At times we get as much production out of the bottom as we do at the top. So we feel good every inning."

Among those who didn't get in on the action -- Yoenis Cespedes, who was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts and has two hits in four games since the All-Star Break, and Seth Smith, who is hitless in his last 26 at-bats for the longest such stretch of his career. At least on this night, the A's got enough contributions from elsewhere in the lineup.

* Sogard made back-to-back standout defensive plays in the eighth -- a diving catch on an Alberto Callaspo line drive and a barehanded pickup and airborne throw to first on Erick Aybar's grounder that had deflected off reliever Sean Doolittle.

Sogard has somewhat quietly put together a pretty solid season platooning at second base, hitting .263 in 82 games and entering Friday with a .988 fielding percentage. He went 1-for-4 in Friday's game but had a hit taken away by Angels first baseman Mike Trumbo on a diving play and is still 7-for-20 since the break. Before the game, Melvin said that Sogard, who totaled 68 games with the A's the past three years, is "swinging the bat as well as anybody we have right now."

* Melvin said reliever Ryan Cook is OK after taking a comebacker off his lower right leg in the seventh inning. Cook was checked out by a trainer and threw a warm-up pitch on the mound before staying in the game. Melvin said he expects that "it probably will smart a little bit, but he'll be OK."

* One way to quantify Colon's value this year -- he has now started 10 games following an A's loss, and the A's are 9-1 in those games. They're four games ahead of the Rangers in the West and will at least try not to lose any ground when they hand the ball to Tommy Milone ... really soon.

-- 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.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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