OAKLAND -- The story line with the A's pitching staff usually revolves around the work of their talented rookie starters.
It was no surprise, though, that the seasoned veteran of the group came through with a performance that delivered a much-needed victory Thursday night.
Bartolo Colon pitched eight scoreless innings, and the A's bagged a 4-1 victory to open a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, in front of a sparse crowd of 10,823 at the Oakland Coliseum.
"Early in the game I didn't know if he had his best stuff," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You saw a lot of 86's and 87's (on the radar gun), which you don't normally see out of him. But he finds a way."
Colon (8-8) scattered seven hits and allowed just one Toronto runner as far as third base. In the process, he ran his scoreless streak to 161/3 innings.
The stabilizing effort was much needed after the A's (57-48) came in having lost three of their past four games. They leapfrogged the Los Angeles Angels and took back second place in the American League West. They also lead the Angels by a half-game for the A.L.'s top wild card spot.
As for his dip in velocity, Colon simply said he was conserving energy, choosing to crank it up only when he had runners on base. His approach is amazing in its simplicity, but it's generally been effective for a rotation that now features four rookies with the addition of Dan Straily, who will start Friday night in his big league debut.
Who could have known what the A's would get out of Colon when they signed him to a one-year, $2 million deal in January? The 39-year-old tailed off considerably toward the end of 2011 with the New York Yankees.
To this point, he's been the solid innings-eater the A's hoped for and he's kept his teammates playing defense behind him on their toes.
"He throws strikes, he makes them put the ball in play," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "You're never bored and waiting around with him on the mound."
Colon was staked to an early 3-0 lead thanks to the work of two previously struggling teammates. Seth Smith snapped an 0-for-18 streak with an RBI single in the third. In the next at-bat, Reddick, who ended his career-long 0-for-21 slump with a first-inning single, cracked a two-run home run to right field.
Reddick said he went to dinner with his father, Kenny -- who is in town for the weekend and had some words of his wisdom for his son.
"I was just trying too hard, jumping at the ball," Reddick said. "He told me to stay back, just be myself. His favorite line between he and my mother is 'Be the kid in the back yard.' "
Smith left the game with a strained left hamstring, pulling up lame as he ran to first on a fifth-inning ground out. He was replaced by Chris Carter at designated hitter. Smith will have an MRI on Friday.