Colon sparkles as A's complete sweep of Astros

MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- In one hand, Oakland right-hander Bartolo Colon turned back the clock Sunday against the Houston Astros. On the other hand, he was the same efficient and savvy pitcher he has been in recent seasons.
Colon relied on a surprisingly spry fastball and his usually impeccable control while pitching seven shutout innings as the Athletics completed a three-game series sweep with a 6-2 victory at Minute Maid Park.
Colon, 40, was customarily stingy with the free passes, completing his seventh start this season without issuing a walk. Colon, who set a season high with nine strikeouts, has walked four batters in 61 1/3 innings. He allowed nine hits, all singles, and only two runners to reach third base.
His fastball sat around 94 miles per hour and occasionally touched 95.
"I remember Nolan Ryan back in the day throwing when he was 45, so that is what I have in my mind," Colon said. "Why if he can do that, why can't I?
"I don't know if I can do that (pitch at 45 years old), but if I work hard, who knows?"
The Athletics had used big innings in each of the first two games of the series to grab big leads.
On Friday, they sent eight batters to the plate while scoring twice and leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. On Saturday, they sent 11 batters to the dish on their way to a six-run second inning.
On Sunday, the Athletics (28-23) scored five runs and batted around in the fourth inning.
The first five batters reached base and later scored against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel (1-2), with Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith, Nate Freiman and Coco Crisp delivering run-scoring base hits.
"I think they feed off (each other) and I think they have good game plans going in," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "We try to prepare them with game plans on a particular pitcher and we do have some guys that can take some walks and do look at some pitches.
"Anytime you can get into a bullpen early in a game, which usually is not their best guy, it gives you a few more opportunities to potentially score some runs and have big innings."
In the sixth, Freiman (2-for-3 with three RBIs and a walk) added a solo home run. Eighteen of the Athletics' last 19 home runs have come with the bases empty, the lone exception a ninth-inning, three-run blast from right fielder Chris Young off Astros closer Jose Veras in the opener of the series.
Colon (5-2) turned 40 on Friday and became the fourth Oakland pitcher in franchise history to make a start at that age. He continued a recent run of excellence by Athletics starters. In the last 10 games, Athletics starters are 5-1 with a 2.87 ERA with a .236 opponents' batting average.
The Astros (14-36) suffered their third consecutive series sweep to Oakland. They have been outscored 68-31 in nine meetings this season and on Sunday wasted the first four-hit game in Jason Castro's career.
Castro, who walked as a pinch hitter in the series opener, has at least three hits in his last three starts at catcher and as the designated hitter, and is 10-for-12 with four RBIs and four runs during that span.
"I know my strengths, and part of this process is trying to match yourself up with whoever you're facing," Castro said. "It's an in-game evolution where you're always making adjustments, and I'm feeling pretty comfortable with making those adjustments on the fly right now."
Castro was alone in his brilliance. The Astros recorded just one extra-base hit, a J.D. Martinez run-scoring double in the eighth, and finished 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Houston closed the series 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position and stranded 21 base runners. Those shortcomings, combined with the struggles of their starting pitchers, produced a recipe for three more losses to the Athletics.
"It seems like with these guys it's always that one big inning," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "They smell it and they take advantage of it. They took advantage of every opportunity in that five-run inning. It started with the (Jose Altuve) error, and it snowballed from there.
"Right now if you were to look you would say, 'Yes, they have our number. They've beat us nine times in nine tries, and today they were just better than us.'"
NOTES: The Athletics have won 11 consecutive games against the Astros, tied for the third-longest streak against one opponent in franchise history. Oakland defeated the Chicago White Sox 11 consecutive times between June 20-Sept. 7, 1970. ... Before surrendering six runs (four earned), nine hits and one walk in six innings Sunday, Keuchel posted a 1.50 ERA in two relief appearances against Oakland this season. ... Young finished 0-for-5 and had his 16-game hitting streak at Minute Maid Park come to an end.

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