CYThe Oakland Athletics opened up a nine-game home stand against the Houston Astros on Tuesday night and stumbled out of the gates before coming up just shy in a 5-4 loss.

Based on each team’s performance for the first several innings, you might have thought the Astros were the ones that came into this game with an 11-1 advantage in the season series.

The Astros lit up Bartolo Colon for five runs in four innings as the A’s right-hander failed to make it through five innings for the second consecutive start.

Colon managed a perfect first inning before surrendering runs in each of the next three. Brandon Barnes lined a two-RBI double to left in the second to put Houston ahead 2-0. The lead was expanded in the third inning when Jason Castro hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0, and Chris Carter smoked an RBI double against his former mates to give the Astros a 4-0 lead.

The four-run lead inflated to five the next inning when Colon put runners at the corners with nobody out. Fortunately for Colon he induced a double play ball off the bat of Jonathan Villar. Unfortunately for the A’s it allowed a run to score, increasing the Houston lead to 5-0.

The Green and Gold looked to have a rally going in the bottom of the fifth. Houston starter Jordan Lyles had dominated through his first four innings as he allowed no runs on two hits. Josh Donaldson began the fifth with the A’s third hit of the game — a ringing triple off the out-of-town scoreboard in right field. That was followed by a Seth Smith walk and the A’s were in business with two on and none out.

However Lyles did what Colon had done in the same situation earlier. Stephen Vogt came up and rolled a slow groundball up the middle, Villar gloved it and turned the six-three double play. Donaldson did come in to score to bring the A’s within 5-1.

Oakland finally got the offense rolling in the eighth. After Eric Sogard and Chris Young struck out to begin the inning, Jed Lowrie singled through the right side to snap a 0-for-16 slump. Lowrie moved to second on a wild pitch, and to third on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt by Houston reliever Josh Zeid. Josh Reddick then raked a base hit up the middle for an RBI to make it a 5-2 ball game.

That brought up Yoenis Cespedes, who took a pitch on the inner half from Zeid and did what a Home Run Derby champ does with a hittable pitch. He pulled the hands in and drove a laser just below the O.Co sign under the bleachers in left field. Sources confirm the cover came off the ball as it passed over the fence, and stadium workers won’t to retrieve the smoldering remains of the Cespedes home run ball until it has been tested for radioactivity.

The rally in the eighth wasn’t done yet though, as Nate Freiman pinch hit for Brandon Moss and was immediately drilled in the back knee. That brought up Donaldson with a runner on first, but the A’s right handed slugger couldn’t execute. He lifted a lazy fly ball to center field on the first pitch and the inning was over.

In the bottom of the ninth the A’s nearly completed the comeback but fell just short … multiple times. After Seth Smith grounded out, Vogt had an 11-pitch plate appearance to put the tying run on for Sogard. Sogard drove one to deep right field that was caught at the base of the wall for out number two. That brought up Young, who launched one deep to left that looked to be a walk-off homer, but it was called foul on the field. After an argument from Bob Melvin, the umpiring crew reviewed it and concluded that the ball hooked just wide of the foul pole.

The furious comeback was nice to see from the A’s. They’ve had a tough month and the fortitude to stay in a game and give themselves a chance to win was what A’s fans have become used to seeing. Unfortunately, they fell just short. This was the type of game the Athletics won all year last year, and this year things seem to be evening out.

The A’s played great baseball for more than a calendar year and they’re finally hitting a skid — the kind of slump that happens from time to time to all teams. If Oakland can remain within striking distance of Texas without playing good baseball, that bodes well for this club. Heading into September if they can start playing good baseball again, it would be the ideal time to get hot.

So, A’s fans, don’t hit the panic button. What’s happening now is the long arm of the law of averages. Once things start bouncing Oakland’s way, they’ll regain their swagger and confidence and be back to their winning ways in time for the playoff chase, and hopefully deep into October.

Walk-offs

– Colon failed to get through six innings for the second straight start after fifteen consecutive such outings. He has also given up 10 earned runs in his last two outings—he gave up nine earned runs in his previous seven outings combined.

– Cespedes had a three-hit night. He’s hit in seven of his last ten contests. If he can get going at the plate average-wise, the A’s will be in good shape.

– Oakland lost for just the fourth time all year when Cespedes drove in a run. They’re 30-4 in such contests.

– The A’s lost a game in which Vogt had a hit for the third time all season. They’re 8-3 when he has a knock.

– Jesse Chavez went three-and-two-thirds of scoreless ball, his longest outing without allowing a run since four shutout innings at Kansas City on July 7. With the A’s starting staff being on shaky ground lately, long relief is a vital spot. If Chavez can get on track and give the A’s a few scoreless innings when needed it would be tantamount to stabilizing the pitching staff some.

– Paul Gutierrez reported that Brett Anderson will make a rehab appearance in Sacramento on Saturday. The A’s took their time getting the injury-prone Anderson back onto the field. Even his relief appearance will be out of the bullpen. It will be interesting to see what the A’s plan is for Anderson down the stretch. He’s a starter, and when healthy, probably the best the A’s have. With Tommy Milone already in AAA, A.J. Griffin struggling, Dan Straily being inconsistent and Colon having consecutive very poor outings, the A’s could use Anderson in a big way.

– While the A’s didn’t play their best, neither did the Rangers. Texas saw their eight-game winning streak end with a loss at home to Milwaukee. Oakland remains a game back in the American League West.