Bartolo Colon showing he can be a valuable postseason chip, in whatever role he’s assigned
Two months ago, it would’ve been hard to take any notion that Bartolo Colon would be the Mets best and most consistent pitcher down the stretch of the season.
But as the young starting pitchers have staggered (and been skipped), Colon has emerged as not just a steady force in the Mets rotation, but their best pitcher over the last six weeks.
That trend continued into his start against the Braves on Wednesday, as he was literally perfect into the fifth inning, retiring the first 14 batters he faced with incredible ease.
He needed only 32 pitches to get through four innings, 44 to get through five.
He allowed a slow rolling infield single in the fifth inning to break up his modest bid at perfection. But he has grabbed the attention of his manager, and pretty much everyone around baseball for his performance as a 42-year-old starting pitcher.
“Colon was tremendous up until the seventh,” manager Terry Collins said. “He was outstanding.”
He had pinpoint control of his two-seamer on Wednesday, painting the outside corners beautifully with that late darting moving over the black. He kept it down in the zone and was able to induce weak ground balls early in counts, which helped keep his pitch down so low.
But as Collins said, Colon ran into trouble in the seventh inning when his two-seamer began finding the middle of the plate. He allowed consecutive singles to AJ Pierzynski and Andrelton Simmons to open the inning, and then with one out, he allowed a single to Cameron Maybin which loaded the bases and ended his night.
“I didn’t see many good swings the entire night,” Collins said. “All of a sudden, he gave up some hits.”
That’s when Collins turned to Addison Reed, who was making just his second appearance as a Met with runners on base. But he was facing what has become a light-hitting Michael Bourn and looking for a popup or a strikeout, since a double play might have been unlikely with Bourn’s speed.
Unfortunately for Reed and really Colon, Bourn converted an opposite field single to plate Pierzynski, which brought up Freddie Freeman.
And just like he always does, Freeman ripped the Mets and gave the Braves a 3-2 lead with a two-run double.
It was a rare rough outing for Reed. While his line wasn’t charged with any runs, he gave up two enormous hits to plate all three of the runners he inherited.
In each of the two times Reed has entered a game with runners on, all of them have come around to score.
But for Colon, his first six innings cannot go unnoticed. He has resurrected his season over the last month, pitching to a 1.65 ERA in his last seven appearances.
With so much focus on the Mets phenom starters, Colon has quietly been the club’s winningest pitcher in 2015 yet again, and his ERA has come down to a respectable 4.15 over the last month. While Collins insisted on Wednesday night he has not thought about his postseason pitching staff to date, Colon should probably now have a role with the Mets come October.
That’s not to say he should or even will be in the rotation next month. And, don’t forget 13 of Colon’s 14 wins have come against the National League East, which he has owned over the course of the season.
But he could be an excellent insurance policy as a long-man out of the bullpen, especially if Carlos Torres can’t cure his calf injury in time. He has made one appearance out of the bullpen during his renaissance – it was a scoreless inning of a relief against the Red Sox on August 29.
So, he’s shown he can do it if needed, which is something Jon Niese has not done, and Collins has repeatedly said is not a candidate to pitch in relief.
But Colon certainly has done nothing to injure his chances of pitching in one more October. It’s that versatility, along with his experience and consistently calm demeanor, which could benefit the club regardless of how he is used.