Balfour Sets Franchise Record with 41st Straight Save

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

PITTSBURGH -- At 40 years old and 16 seasons into his major league career, Bartolo Colon thinks he's having a career season.

On Monday night, Coco Crisp's speed helped preserve another win for Colon.

Colon allowed one run over seven innings to outduel Jeff Locke as the Oakland Athletics won for the ninth time in their past 12 games, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 in a matchup of All-Star starters.

Colon (12-3) moved into a tie for second in the majors in victories, and has the second-most wins by a 40-year-old in A's history. He allowed seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

The final pitch Colon threw Monday resulted in Crisp making a diving catch to preserve Oakland's lead. Crisp ran to his right to track down a hard-hit sinking liner headed for the left-centerfield gap from Andrew McCutchen with two men on and two outs.

"The game was decided right there, to tell you the truth," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who called the catch "the play of the year."

Said Colon, through a translator: "I said, three times, `Thank you,' when we got back to the dugout."

Colon shook off a tough-luck 3-1 defeat in his previous start to win for the ninth time in his last 10 outings.

"I've never pitched better than this year," said Colon, the 2005 AL Cy Young winner. "This has been my best season."

Locke (8-2) had a personal eight-game winning streak snapped, losing for the first time since his first start of the season April 10. He allowed three hits and three walks in seven innings.

"I wouldn't change anything about it," said Locke, selected as an All-Star over the weekend. "Everything I did, I'd take it out there the next start."

Except, perhaps, a walk of Derek Norris with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh that gave the A's a 2-0 lead.

The Pirates got runners on second and third with two outs against Ryan Cook in the eighth, but Clint Barmes lined out to left.

Grant Balfour remained perfect in 23 save opportunities when he worked a flawless ninth.

Jed Lowrie had two of Oakland's three hits and one of its runs. The A's (53-37) improved to a season-high 16 games over .500 and held on to first place in the American League West.

Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez and Barmes each had two hits for the Pirates (53-35), who have lost five of seven to lose their grip on the majors' best record -- and on first place in the NL Central. They trail the St. Louis Cardinals by a half-game.

Locke faced one more than the minimum through six innings. Oakland's first run came on Josh Donaldson's sacrifice fly in the fourth. Lowrie had the Athletics' first hit of the game, a double off the wall in right-center. He advanced to third on a wild pitch -- catcher Russell Martin's throw beat him, but Alvarez's tag swiped through too early.

"There's nothing I can do there," Alvarez said. "Try to tag him and run into it. It's just, that happens 100 times and 99 out of 100 times I'll tag him, you know? Just one of those plays."

The Pirates' only run came in the bottom of the inning when Barmes scored on a two-out infield single by Tabata. McCutchen -- an All-Star selection who earlier extended his hitting streak to 10 games -- came up and hit the ball hard into the gap, but Crisp thwarted Pittsburgh's chance to tie or take the lead.

"Right when I hit it, I knew he was going to catch it," McCutchen said. "It's Coco Crisp and he's fast. I told myself, `I'm catching that ball too, if I'm out there playing.'

"Off the bat, I knew there was a chance it would fall but there was more of a chance he was going to catch it."


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