HOUSTON -- Oakland right-hander Bartolo Colon returned from the suspended list and pitched six strong innings, and the Athletics parlayed another inning of exceptional at-bats into a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
Colon (1-0) missed the opening five games of this season completing the 50-game suspension issued last Aug. 22 for testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of baseball's joint drug prevention and treatment program. The down time didn't negatively impact his performance, as Colon allowed three runs on eight hits with two strikeouts. As usual, he did not issue a walk.
The Athletics (4-2) strung together three successive run-scoring singles in the sixth inning to turn a two-run deficit into a 5-3 lead. Oakland also flexed its power as Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Seth Smith smacked leadoff home runs in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings. The Athletics were sixth in the American League in homers in 2012 despite playing half of their games in the pitcher-friendly confines of O.co Coliseum.
After striking out at least 10 times in their first four games, the Astros (1-4) fanned just four times in the middle game of this three-game set. However, Oakland relievers Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour retired all nine batters they faced. Balfour earned his first save of 2013.
Astros right-hander Bud Norris labored to escape the fourth and fifth innings, and he didn't complete the former unscathed after Crisp hit his second home run in as many nights. Norris stranded a total of three batters in the two innings, but despite running his pitch count to 91, Norris returned for the top of the sixth.
The Athletics immediately cut into his 3-1 lead as former Astros shortstop Lowrie drilled an 0-1 pitch into the right-field seats for a leadoff home run. Norris appeared set to work around Ronny Cedeno's fielding error, retiring Yoenis Cespedes and Smith in succession, but Brandon Moss reached by working an eight-pitch walk.
Astros manager Bo Porter paid Norris a visit and elected to leave his ace in the game with 115 pitches on his ledger. Seven pitches later, Norris' lead was gone and his night finished thanks to Josh Donaldson's single.
Derek Norris and Eric Sogard greeted Houston left-hander Wesley Wright with consecutive RBI singles. Oakland scored three of its four runs in the sixth with two outs, a frame that unfolded methodically.
Houston took its lead in the fourth when catcher Jason Castro lifted an opposite-field, three-run homer to left field.
NOTES: First baseman Brandon Moss rejoined Oakland and was in the starting lineup after missing Friday night's series opener to be with his pregnant wife at a Bay Area hospital. His wife has yet to give birth to the couple's second child and, with the Athletics slated to return to California on Sunday and with an off day Monday, Moss opted to fly to Houston. He remains on standby in case his wife's labor progresses. ... Two days after joining the Astros via trade from the Athletics, left-hander Travis Blackley was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain. Blackley suffered the injury during a bullpen session on Friday. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel was recalled from Class AAA Oklahoma City and replaced Blackley on the 25-man roster. ... Astros second baseman Jose Altuve made his first career start at designated hitter on Saturday night. With the Astros facing an early afternoon game on Sunday, Porter wanted to give Altuve a smidgen of rest. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who entered Saturday with a .429/.429/.571 slash line, replaced Altuve at second.