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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 06, 2013 11:35 pm

Colon strong in return, A's beat Astros 6-3


Oakland's Bartolo Colon was glad to be back on the mound after missing 50 games because of a drug suspension.

The starter was perhaps even happier to be allowed in the clubhouse after being banned from it for the duration of his penalty.

Colon was sharp in his first game back and Coco Crisp, Jed Lowrie and Seth Smith homered to lead the Athletics to a 6-3 victory over the Astros.

"It was a bit difficult for me to accept that because I could only watch the game on the TV when I wanted to be here with the team," Colon said through a translator.

It was the first appearance for Colon (1-0) since he received a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test Aug. 22. He allowed eight hits and three runs without a walk in six innings for the win.

He couldn't go in the clubhouse to be with his team until he was reinstated from the suspended list before Saturday's game.

His clubhouse ban was even more frustrating on Friday when he was unable to watch the game because Comcast SportsNet Houston, where the Astros games are broadcast, wasn't available in the team hotel. It's a common problem in Houston as the new network is currently unavailable to about 60 percent of the area's cable subscribers.

"I had to take care of myself because there were a lot of new guys that I didn't even know," Colon said of facing the young Astros. "The only guy that I know is Carlos Pena."

Crisp homered for the second straight game with a solo shot in the fourth that put Oakland up 1-0.

Lowrie, who spent last season with the Astros, added a solo homer in Oakland's four-run sixth inning. Derek Norris gave the A's the lead with a run-scoring single later in the sixth.

Houston starter Bud Norris (1-1) yielded six hits and five runs - two earned - in 5 2-3 innings.

Jason Castro hit a three-run homer in the fourth for the Astros.

"I thought he threw the ball great," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Colon. "The one pitch he's trying to come in on Castro and it ran all the way across the plate and he put the bat on it and hit it to the part of the park where it's easiest to go deep. Other than that I thought he threw the ball really well."

A's closer Grant Balfour struck out one in a scoreless ninth for his first save.

The 39-year-old Colon was 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts last season. He sat out the last 40 games of the 2012 regular season, five games in the postseason and the first five games of this year.

Smith's eighth inning solo homer to left field off Dallas Keuchel, who was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday, extended the lead to 6-3.

Norris retired the first nine batters he faced before Oakland's first hit came on Crisp's homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field to start the fourth inning. Lowrie singled before Norris sat down the next three batters to end the inning.

The loss breaks a string of three straight wins dating back to last season for Norris. He picked up the victory in Houston's opener on Sunday, and the Astros haven't won since.

Lowrie connected on the second pitch of the sixth inning for a homer which landed in the second row in right field to cut Houston's lead to 3-2. Josh Reddick reached on an error by Ronny Cedeno before Brandon Moss drew a two-out walk.

Reddick stole third base before scoring on a single to right field by Josh Donaldson to tie it 3-all.

It was a taxing inning for Norris, who threw 31 pitches in the frame. He left the game with 122 pitches after the hit by Donaldson.

Norris liked that manager Bo Porter allowed him to remain in the game to try and finish the inning despite his high pitch-count.

"I appreciate it," 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 (bullpen) on certain days. I felt I made a good pitch, but it found a hole. I was happy he kept me out there."

He was replaced by Wesley Wright, who gave up the go-ahead RBI single to Derek Norris. Erik Sogard tacked on an insurance run with his single to center field which scored Donaldson and pushed the lead to 5-3.

Colon had allowed just one hit before Carlos Pena and Justin Maxwell hit back-to-back singles with two outs in the fourth inning. Castro's homer to left field came next to give Houston a 3-1 lead. J.D. Martinez followed with a single before Colon escaped the inning by retiring Matt Dominguez.

Houston didn't reach double digits in strikeouts for the first time this season by finishing with four on Saturday night. But the Astros still set a record for most strikeouts in the first five games of a season in major league history since 1921 with 60, according to STATS LLC. The previous record was held by the Washington Nationals, who struck out 57 times through the first five games of 2009.

Crisp, who hit a leadoff homer on Friday, has had a great start to this series, hitting three doubles and two homers in the first two games.

NOTES: These teams wrap up the series on Sunday when Houston's Lucas Harrell opposes Brett Anderson. ... A's 1B Moss rejoined the team on Saturday after leaving Thursday to be with his pregnant wife, who was having contractions. She hadn't yet had the baby, their second son, by Saturday afternoon. Moss said Saturday that he hoped the baby would wait to come until Monday when the A's have a day off. But he was keeping his phone close in case he needed to fly back sooner. Whenever he comes, they've got a name picked out for the boy. He'll be called Brody. ... Saturday marked the third time in team history that the A's have used six different starting pitchers in the first six games of the season and the first since 1983.