After a quiet 7 2/3 innings, the A's made a lot of noise late before falling inches short -- or in this case, wide.
Oakland managed to place just two runners in scoring position by the time Jed Lowrie stepped to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning, trailing 5-1. Lowrie singled before advancing to second on a wild pitch and then scurrying to third on a misfired pickoff attempt by Astros reliever Josh Zeid.
Josh Reddick then singled in Lowrie with his first hit as the A's No. 3 hitter since the early portion of the season. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a two-run home run that cut the deficit to one.
Yet Oakland would get no closer, failing to notch its second win the final inning in as many games -- though it only missed out by mere inches.
With one out and a man on first, Eric Sogard missed a walk-off homer by a few feet for the second out. Chris Young then tagged a Chia-Jen Lo curveball down the left-field line. The ball was ruled foul and upheld after an umpire review. The ball hooked foul by inches and Young struck out on the next pitch after the review.
"That's how the game goes sometimes," Young said. "It goes from extremely crappy to amazing to unbelievable to crappy again. It was a full process all in a 3 1/2-hour period today."
Young felt the ball was fair, initially, while A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't able to tell from his vantage point in the third-base dugout. The outcry from the 14,261 in attendance and Young's reaction prompted him to ask crew chief Dana DeMuth and the rest of the umpires to take a look at the replay.
"I thought it was going to stay true," Young said. "From my point of view, I thought it was fair. I just appreciate the umpires going to check it out. That's all you can ask for. If it's foul, it's foul. Just go look at it and get it right, and they got it right. We were inches away from winning that game."
"That was pretty nerve-wracking," said Astros starter Jordan Lyles, who held the A's to just one run on five hits and two walks over seven innings. "I was able to see it a couple of times on replay, and if the umpire saw something a lot different than we saw, we knew it was going to be OK. It's much more nerve-wracking to watch a game you started once you have no control over it. Lo came in and did a good job and finished out Young to end the game."
The final score was much closer than might be anticipated after Bartolo Colon had a second straight bad outing. He allowed all five of Houston's runs and has allowed 10 earned runs in his last 6 2/3 innings. He allowed nine earned runs in his previous 49 1/3.
Colon lasted just four innings, retiring the first three Astros he faced before yielding seven hits and a walk in only four frames.
Of the 77 pitches Colon threw, only a handful exceeded 90 mph. The 40-year-old's velocity has been in question in recent starts, including in his previous outing, when he tossed just 2 2/3 in his shortest start since June of last year. Before that game, Colon had worked at least six innings in each of his previous 15 starts, going 11-1 in that stretch.
"We did see the velocity was up a little bit today," Melvin said. "It looked like the pitches he made that were in the middle of the plate, they hit. I don't know if there was as much movement as we've seen before."
Tuesday tied Colon's second-shortest outing of the season. A win against Houston would have given him 15 on the year to become the first pitcher to win 15 games in a season for four different American League teams, but instead, his nine-game winning streak against the AL West came to an end.
With the number of victories in mind, it's difficult to disparage Colon too much, considering how effective he's been for most of the season. Yet a second straight poor showing is discouraging for a man who has been Oakland's ace, despite his age.
"The guy has been really good for us this year and he's had a couple of starts where the velocity hasn't been as good," Melvin said. "We'll see going forward."
The A's managed to stay within striking distance thanks to Jesse Chavez's strong relief outing. Chavez tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out five and allowing three hits.
Colon said he felt better than in his last outing and that he isn't concerned about his recent funk.
"I believe that maybe it's the moment right now," he said through an interpreter. "After having 15 good outings, I don't think too much of it. It's just two bad outings. … I never feel tired."
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com.