After a spectacular month of June, Bartolo Colon opened July by losing his first start in nine outings against the woeful Chicago Cubs.
Colon earned American League Pitcher of the Month honors on Wednesday, but he couldn't carry the momentum into the new calendar month, falling 3-1 to the Cubs at O.Co Coliseum.
The 40-year old surrendered two earned runs on nine hits in his first loss since May 9 and the A's bats struggled to provide support against hard-throwing right-hander Matt Garza, who scattered four hits over eight innings of work.
“It was a good matchup,” A's manager Bob Melvin said. “Two pretty good pitchers obviously and two guys that you expect to go deep in games and that's what happened.”
Despite the loss, the A's maintain a half-game lead in the AL West standings because the Seattle Mariners topped the second-place Texas Rangers 4-2 in 10 innings.
The Cubs got opened the scoring in the top of the first inning when Alfonso Soriano singled home Starlin Castro, who advanced to second base earlier in the at-bat on Colon's first wild pitch since May 26, 2009, which amounts to 443 innings of work.
Third baseman Luis Valbuena added to the lead in the top of the third inning when he parked a 1-2 pitch that grazed the glove of a leaping Josh Reddick over the right-field fence. The home run was only the second allowed by Colon since May 14.
“[Reddick] timed it well and if anybody's got a chance to get it — it's him,” Melvin said.
The A's cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth when Brandon Moss hit a line drive home run to right, his 15th of the season, but they produced only five base runners the rest of the way.
With Colon out of the game, the Cubs stretched the lead to 3-1 off Sean Doolittle in the eighth.
Before the loss, Colon had won eight consecutive starts, the first A's pitcher to do so since Barry Zito in 2005. He snagged the AL Pitcher of the Month award in June by going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA.
“It's pride for me what I'm doing at 40-years old,” Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto.
But Garza, who the Giants are rumored to be interested in, stole the spotlight from Colon, stymying the A's offense for eight innings. Garza has been equally impressive in recent week, going 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 28 strikeouts in his last four starts.
“We just had a tough time figuring out Garza,” Melvin said.