HOUSTON -- Dan Straily says "I can do basic math," and for that he paid a price. He went into Friday's start knowing that he wasn't going to get another start in the major leagues for a while.
That being the case, he went out and put together perhaps his best big league game, striking out a career-high 11 while walking none in leading the A's to their third consecutive win, an 8-3 victory in the series opener against the Houston Astros.
The A's announced a while back that they would be activating Bartolo Colon as soon as his 50-day suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs was up, and Saturday is Day 51. And even while Straily gave Oakland everything the club could want and more in his first start, he was the odd man out.
"He knew it before he came in here," manager Bob Melvin said. "He admitted it bothered him some. But he put it aside, and he was terrific."
Straily said he'd tried to stay away from media, social and otherwise, for the past five days, because every time Colon was mentioned as returning, Straily was mentioned as leaving, and he didn't want to have to read it. Instead he watched video of Yu Darvish's almost perfect game against the Astros "to see how a right-hander would pitch to them."
That plan seemed to have worked. Straily struck out the side in the first, struck out two in the second and two more in the third. By game's end he had a new career best and the respect of his teammates.
"He's a good pitcher," center fielder Coco Crisp said. "There will be a part of the season when it will be his spot. It's just a matter of time."
Crisp helped Straily out with a homer to open the game, then doubled twice in the A's seven-run fifth inning to break the game open. Crisp started the rally with a double and drove in the final two runs with another two-bagger as the A's put the game out of reach.
Crisp did all that with an aching back that developed after he tried to make a play on former teammate Chris Carter's sinking line drive single in the first inning. Melvin said there was doubt Crisp would be able to finish the game.
"It grabbed on me as I took a knee," Crisp said. "But it loosened up. I got some work done on it."
The seven-run inning was the product of just three hits, although a hard-hit smash by Yoenis Cespedes that went off Houston shortstop Marwin Gonzalez's glove for an error could have been ruled a hit. That ball brought in two runs, and moments later, John Jaso laid down a safety squeeze, Josh Reddick racing home from third.
"Red did a good job waiting until the ball was down," Crisp said. "And Jaso did a nice job getting the ball down."
From that point on the inning dragged on and on and on. Straily said he got up six times to throw in the cages just to keep his arm loose.
"Jed (shortstop Jed Lowrie) came over and reminded me to stay focused. That's the kind of veteran leadership we have here," Straily said.
The A's are one of the youngest teams in the game, and they are thirsty for veteran leadership, which is what they hope they're going to get from Colon. If he pitches as well as Straily did, the club will be well rewarded.
A's (Bartolo Colon) at Houston (Bud Norris 1-0), 4:10 p.m. CSNCA
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