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A's Colon picks up win in first game back after suspension

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- As far as blueprints for success are concerned, Saturday night was textbook for the Oakland Athletics.

Bartolo Colón returned from the suspended list and pitched six strong innings, and the Athletics parlayed a blend of patience and power at the plate into a 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Colón (1-0) missed the opening five games of this season completing the 50-game suspension he received 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. Colon allowed three runs on eight hits with two strikeouts. As usual, he did not issue a walk.

"I feel so happy to come over here for the first time and pitch," Colón said. "I was happy also to be in the clubhouse with the team.

"I felt so good. Thanks to God. Every pitch worked and that was most important for me."

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. 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.

Crisp (2 for 5 with a double), Lowrie (3 for 5) and catcher Derek Norris (2 for 4) produced multi-hit games for the Athletics. Lowrie, acquired by Oakland on Feb. 2 in a trade with the Astros, has 10 homers in 49 career games at Minute Maid Park.

"I feel good," said Lowrie, now batting .476 with two homers and four RBIs. "I'm confident with my swing right now. I'm working myself into good hitter's counts. Even when I get behind, I'm not trying to do too much. I feel good right now. Just continue work and keep that feeling."

Astros right-hander Bud Norris (1-1) labored to escape the fourth and fifth, and he didn't complete the former unscathed after Crisp hit his second home run in as many nights. Norris faced a total of 10 batters in those two innings, yet despite running his pitch count to 91 through the fifth inning, Norris returned for the top of the sixth.

The Athletics immediately cut into his 3-1 lead as Lowrie drilled an 0-and-1 pitch into the right-field seats. 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.

"He wanted to be out there," Porter said of Norris. "I knew that even before I went out there. He looked me square in the eyes and said 'No skip, I want this.' I said, 'I wasn't coming out there to get you. I want you to know you have earned the right to keep this ball and win this game.'"

Norris said, "That's what you are trying to do is pitch deep into games, and to pitch deep into games, you are going to have to make big pitches in situations. You can't always go to the pen on certain days. I felt I made a good pitch, but it found a hole. I was happy he kept me out there."

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 (1-4) took its lead in the fourth when catcher Jason Castro lifted an opposite-field, three-run homer to left. That lead was the Astros' first since they defeated the Texas Rangers on Sunday night.

After striking out at least 10 times in their first four games, the Astros 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.

"Those three guys that finished up the game were so important to us last year and will continue to be this year," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "Confidence-wise as a team when we get to the seventh inning and have those three guys available, we feel like we're in good position. Based on their performances, that's why we feel so good."

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 following on 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 extra rest. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez, who entered Saturday with a .429/.429/.571 slash line, replaced Altuve at second.

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