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AL West-leading Athletics close series with Astros

(Sports Network) - Veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon takes the ball in a tight playoff chase on Sunday afternoon when the Oakland Athletics finish a four-game series with the visiting Houston Astros at the Coliseum.

The Athletics dropped the opener, but have won two straight to go from second place to first in the American League West, where they now lead the Texas Rangers by 1 1/2 games. The Rangers have dropped three in a row to fall out.

The Rangers, though, have the edge over Tampa Bay in the race for the first of two available AL wild card positions.

Colon, who's made 401 starts in a big league career that stretches back to 1997, is 6-3 in 10 lifetime meetings with Houston, but dropped a 5-4 decision at home when he last faced them on Aug. 13.

He was pulled after just four innings in that game and allowed five runs and seven hits, which raised his career earned run average against the Astros to 3.53 and pushed his 2013 ERA from 2.75 to 2.97.

Colon had improved to 14-3 on the season with a July 26 defeat of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but has since gone 0-3 in five starts.

He took a tough luck defeat in his most recent outing on Sept. 3 against Texas, allowing one earned run in five innings of a 5-1 loss.

Oakland is 4-6 in his last 10 starts.

Colon will be opposed by Astros rookie right-hander Paul Clemens, who was nine when Colon first pitched in the majors with the Indians.

Now 25, the South Carolina native opened his inaugural season with 30 straight trips from the bullpen while compiling a 4-4 record with a 6.36 ERA across 46 2/3 innings.

He's pitched to mixed results in two subsequent starts on Aug. 27 and Sept. 2, allowing 11 hits and four earned runs in 9 2/3 innings of a pair of no- decisions against the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota.

In two previous relief outings against the Athletics, Clemens pitched a combined 7 2/3 innings while allowing just three hits and a run with two walks and four strikeouts.

On Saturday, Dan Straily tossed seven scoreless innings and Jed Lowrie added a key late solo homer as Oakland nipped Houston, 2-1.

Yoenis Cespedes also went deep for the Athletics, who have won seven of nine overall.

Straily (9-7) allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out seven, and Sean Doolittle finished off the win by recording the final four outs to earn his first save.

Brandon Barnes drove in the lone run for the Astros, who skidded to their ninth defeat in the last 12. Brett Oberholtzer (4-2) was the hard-luck loser, giving up seven hits and two runs while fanning five in six full frames.

Oakland is 14-4 against the Astros this season.

09/08 09:39:35 ET

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