PITTSBURGH — Jeff Locke was efficient and effective, as usual. This time, though, it wasn't good enough to win.
Locke lost for the first time since his first start of the season, getting outdueled by fellow All-Star Bartolo Colon in the Oakland Athletics' 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
"You can go out there and lose any game you want, but it's tough to win games," said Locke, who fell to 8-2 and had his Pittsburgh-record streak of 16 starts without a loss within one season come to an end. "That really makes you appreciate it."
In losing for the first time since April 10 – a stretch of eight decisions – Locke allowed three hits and three walks in seven innings.
"I wouldn't change anything about it," said Locke, named an All-Star over the weekend. "Everything I did, I'd take it out there the next start."
Except, perhaps, a walk of Derek Norris with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh that gave the A's a 2-0 lead.
Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez and Clint Barmes each had two hits for the Pirates (53-35), who have lost five of seven to lose their grip on the majors' best record – and on first place in the NL Central. They trail the St. Louis Cardinals by a half-game.
Locke faced one more than the minimum through six innings and was done in by some quirky plays.
Oakland's first run came on Josh Donaldson's sacrifice fly in the fourth. Lowrie had the Athletics' first hit of the game, a double off the wall in right-center. He advanced to third on a wild pitch – catcher Russell Martin's throw beat him, but Alvarez's tag swiped through too early.
"There's nothing I can do there," Alvarez said. "Try to tag him and run into it. It's just, that happens 100 times and 99 out of 100 times I'll tag him, you know? Just one of those plays."
Locke also could have come away a winner if one of several hard-hit balls by the Pirates had fallen for a hit – notably, Barmes flying out deep to left against Ryan Cook with two on and two outs.
Still, Locke easily could have left the game in line to win instead of taking a loss if not for a diving catch by Coco Crisp on the final pitch Colon threw.
Andrew McCutchen delivered a hard-hit sinking liner headed for the left-centerfield gap with two men on and two outs, but Crisp ran to his right to track it down.
"The game was decided right there, to tell you the truth," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who called the catch "the play of the year."
Said Colon, through a translator: "I said, three times, `Thank you,' when we got back to the dugout."
The 40-year-old Colon (12-3) shook off a tough-luck 3-1 defeat in his previous start to win for the ninth time in his last 10 outings.
"I've never pitched better than this year," said Colon, the 2005 AL Cy Young winner. "This has been my best season."
Colon allowed one run over seven innings as Oakland won for the ninth time in its past 12 games. Colon moved into a tie for second in the majors in victories, and has the second-most wins by a 40-year-old in A's history. He allowed seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
Grant Balfour remained perfect in 23 save opportunities when he worked a perfect ninth.
Jed Lowrie had two of Oakland's three hits and one of its runs. The A's (53-37) improved to a season-high 16 games over .500 and held on to first place in the American League West.
The Pirates' only run came in the bottom of the inning when Barmes scored on a two-out infield single by Tabata. McCutchen – an All-Star selection who earlier extended his hitting streak to 10 games – came up and hit the ball hard into the gap, but Crisp thwarted Pittsburgh's chance to tie or take the lead.
"Right when I hit it, I knew he was going to catch it," McCutchen said. "It's Coco Crisp and he's fast. I told myself, `I'm catching that ball too, if I'm out there playing.'
"Off the bat, I knew there was a chance it would fall but there was more of a chance he was going to catch it."
NOTES: Oakland is 10-0 all-time against Pittsburgh – the only team in the majors to have never lost to another team in the majors. ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker sat out his second consecutive game since leaving Saturday's game because of discomfort in his right side. He worked out during batting practice. ... Before the game, the A's recalled 2B Grant Green from Triple-A Sacramento. The 2009 first-round pick went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his major-league debut. Oakland designated INF Adam Rosales for assignment. Melvin said Green will regularly be in the lineup. ... Rookie right-handers will face each other during the middle game of the series Tuesday: The Pirates' Gerrit Cole (4-1, 3.94) against the A's Dan Straily (5-2, 4.52). Straily is 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA and .119 opponents' batting average in interleague play this season; Cole won each of his first four starts until losing a 6-4 decision to Philadelphia in his most recent outing Thursday.