OAKLAND -- The puzzle that is the A's starting rotation is no clearer today than it was 10 games ago.
It's not that the A's are pitching poorly. Far from it. Bartolo Colon allowed one run in six innings Sunday in a 7-2 win over the Houston Astros that brought an end to an 8-2 homestand and saw the A's climb back into the lead in the American League West.
The A's, who have a day off Monday as they travel to Minnesota, own a 11/2-game lead on the Texas Rangers thanks in large part to a starting rotation that is 61-44 with a 3.77 ERA. After emerging from the early August doldrums, the starters are even better, 13-5 with a 2.88 ERA in the last 25 games.
The question now is what to do with Brett Anderson. He was the opening day starting pitcher but has thrown strictly in relief since coming off the disabled list after a season interrupted by a sprained right ankle and a stress fracture of the right foot.
He threw the final three innings Sunday for his third three-inning save. Manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have been thinking about pushing Anderson into the starting rotation because of the sheer quality of his assortment of pitches, but whom do you boot out?
Colon has come off the disabled list (left groin) to allow three earned runs in three starts covering 16 innings.
Jarrod Parker has a club-record 18 consecutive starts without a loss and a nine-game winning streak.
Sonny Gray has a 2-3 record, but he has a 2.77 ERA in six starts, and opposing hitters are averaging just .210 against the rookie right-hander in those games.
A.J. Griffin is second on the team behind Colon in wins with 13 and has a three-game winning streak.
And Dan Straily is on a three-game winning streak during which his ERA is 1.50.
Anderson threw 36 pitches Sunday and probably is ready to give the A's five or six innings -- if that is what Melvin and Young request from him.
"The last time out (three innings against Texas) and this time,'' Anderson said, "I felt good, felt like I could go through their lineup one more time if that's required.''
Anderson gave up hits to the first three hitters he faced, costing the A's a run in the seventh after Colon pitched six innings. But catcher Stephen Vogt said Anderson's history as a starter has to be factored into his relief work.
"It's almost like he's being ambushed,'' Vogt said of Anderson's first three hits. "It's a tough adjustment. The thing about Brett is that once he gets men on base, he makes the adjustment. For him, it's just a matter of getting used to the roll.''
Melvin has said he'd like to have Anderson in a starter's role. He hasn't said yet if that's gone beyond the wish phase. Anderson has shown he's ready. It's just that the rest of the rotation isn't making an easy case for a change.
Colon seems to be getting better with each appearance since his stint on the disabled list. He'd been rocked (10 runs in 62/3 innings) before going on the D.L., but he seems to be back now. His victory Sunday made him the first pitcher to win 15 or more games in a season for four A.L. teams -- the A's, the Angels, the Indians and the White Sox.
Asked if he believed he was back to where he was in a eight-game winning streak in May-June, Colon nodded.
"I believe I am,'' Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I feel physically better. I have more power.''
The same could be said for the A's rotation as a whole. Just ask Brett Anderson.
A's (Jarrod Parker 11-6) at Minnesota
(Liam Hendriks 1-2), 5:10 p.m. CSNCA
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A.L. WEST RACE
Team W L GB
A's 83 60 --
Texas 81 61 1½