Today marked the first time since last August that the A’s saw Bartolo Colon take the hill for the Athletics after he was suspended for using synthetic testosterone. There have been questions throughout the entire offseason and the Cactus League schedule as to just how effective Bartolo could be without the help of PEDs. Today we saw some signs that he could still be effective without the added help.
Just like with Dan Straily yesterday, the evaluation of Bartolo Colon’s performance has to be taken with a grain of salt considering the frankly subpar lineup the Houston Astros have. What made Bartolo effective last season was his ability to pound the strikezone, as was recalled during the broadcast when he threw 38 consecutive pitches for strikes on April 18th last year. That ability has not left him this year. He may be missing fewer bats though. Fifty-eight of his eighty-three pitches were for strikes, and he scattered 8 hits over his 6 innings of work while only striking out 2. He really only made one mistake on a pitch to Jason Castro that he deposited into the “Crawford Boxes” for a 3-run home run. The Astros would not be able to hold the 2 run lead Castro had given them.
The A’s took on Novato product, and Astros Opening Day starter Bud Norris held the A’s bats in check for the first 3 innings, and Coco Crisp got the A’s on the board in the 4th with his second home run of the season and second in as many days. The big inning today would come in the 6th.
Jed Lowrie led off the inning with his second home run of the season, Josh Reddick reached on an error, then Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith failed to capitalize. With 2 outs and Reddick at first, the makings of a big rally were not apparent. A walk by Brandon Moss (who returned to the team after what appeared to be a false alarm of his wife giving birth to their second child), and after a long battle Josh Donaldson shot a ball through the hole on the right side to drive in Reddick. With runners now at the corners with 2 outs, Derek Norris came to bat and started the carousel around the bases with an RBI single of his own. Then Eric Sogard came up with runners at the corners once again, and he lifted a single to center to bring in the 4th run of the inning. The A’s had a 5-3 lead at this point, and Seth Smith would add a solo home run in the top of the 8th inning to give the A’s a 6-3 lead that would hold for the victory.
Crisp and Lowrie are leading the charge in the early going, Crisp went 2-5 with the home run and Lowrie went 3-5 with his own home run. The offensive output today was really a well balanced team effort though, which was nice to see.
The A’s bullpen was lights out tonight, as Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour each pitched 1-2-3 innings in the 7th, 8th, and 9th to close out the game. The save went to Balfour for his first of 2013.
The A’s go for the sweep tomorrow morning/afternoon as Brett Anderson (0-1, 2.57 ERA) and Lucas Harrell (0-1, 1.50 ERA). The A’s are now 4-2 on the young season, and find themselves sitting atop the AL West all alone. It may be incredibly early but it’s still nice to be able to call them a first place team.