AL West-leading Athletics close series with Astros

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 right-hander Lucas Harrell, who has just one win in his last 17 appearances. That victory came Aug. 14 with one inning of relief at Oakland. He's 2-2 with a 7.71 ERA in seven games (3 starts) against the A's.

The Astros were expected to start rookie right-hander Paul Clemens, but he was scratched due to a blister.

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.