AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals no longer have the best record in baseball and are out of first place in their own division.
Shelby Miller labored through a five-run second inning to send St. Louis to a 6-1 loss against the Oakland Athletics on Friday night. The Cardinals have lost five of six and are suddenly a game behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
"I just struggled. I wasn't throwing strikes and when I did throw strikes, they were right down the middle," Miller said.
With Bartolo Colon in complete control again, the A's sent 10 batters to the plate and forced Miller (8-6) to throw 51 pitches in the second inning. It was the most thrown in an inning by a pitcher this season, topping the 50 tossed by Arizona's Ian Kennedy against the Cardinals on June 6.
The 22-year-old's maddening stretch was only magnified by the other man on the mound.
Colon (11-2) tossed eight innings of one-run ball to win his eighth straight start. He controlled the game with an efficient fastball the way he has so many others this season, burnishing his All-Star credentials and confounding critics who wonder how the 40-year-old continues to dominate.
Colon allowed six hits, struck out five and walked one. He trails Max Scherzer of Detroit by one win for the AL lead. Scherzer improved to 12-0 Friday night.
"I don't even know what I can say," Colon said. "Thank you, God."
Stephen Vogt stole some of the spotlight from Colon's latest gem when he homered to end an 0-for-32 stretch to start his career, and four players drove in runs during the second inning to help Oakland win its third straight game.
Colon hugged his catcher in the dugout when he came out after the eighth and whispered in Vogt's ear: "Thank you, Poppy."
Vogt's line-drive homer against reliever Joe Kelly in the fourth ended the longest hitless streak to start a career by a non-pitcher since Chris Carter began 0 for 33 with the A's in 2010. Kelly, who last pitched seven days earlier, allowed just the one run and three hits in 5 1-3 innings of relief in one of the few bright spots for the Cardinals, who couldn't solve Colon's deceptive fastballs.
"He has a different kind of movement and throws harder than what the gun reads," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Dan Otero pitched a scoreless ninth to finish off the best first half of the season for Oakland (47-34) since 1992, when the club started 48-33. The A's remain a half-game behind Texas for the AL West lead, and the reigning division champions owe much of it to the big, burly pitcher on the mound.
The A's are 13-3 in Colon's starts.
"Do the math," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It's halfway through the season and he's got 11 wins."
Colon tied his career high with eight consecutive wins -- which he did in 2005, when he won a career-best 21 games for the Angels and captured the AL Cy Young Award -- and hasn't lost since May 9 at Cleveland. He's the first A's pitcher since Barry Zito in 2005 to win eight in a row.
The right-hander also is the first pitcher to win his first seven starts since turning 40, according to information from the Elias Sports Bureau provided by the A's. But with every win, Colon also brings more attention and more scrutiny -- fair or not -- about how he is finding so much success at this stage of his career.
Colon is among more than a dozen players who have been connected to a now-closed Miami anti-aging clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball for performance-enhancing drugs. The right-hander also missed the end of last season when he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for synthetic testosterone.
The A's and Colon have brushed off any clouds that come the pitcher's way with the motto Melvin has instilled with everything else about his team: Focus on the day's task and nothing else.
Colon carried a perfect game into the fifth, when Matt Holliday walked with one out. Matt Adams added a short fly that dropped in front of a diving Coco Crisp in center field for the first hit off Colon, and David Freese followed with an RBI single for the Cardinals' lone run.
Vogt, filling in for the injured John Jaso, added his first career hit in the fourth and teammates initially acted as if nothing happened when he jogged back in the dugout. Then, everybody charged him at once.