Colon produces unlikely tying run while tossing seven
Veteran righty increases offensive production, remains dominant from mound
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- Nobody saw it coming. Not Anthony Recker, who stood on first not expecting to move. Not even Terry Collins, the man who sent Bartolo Colon up to the plate with the bases loaded in the first place.
"Yes, I was surprised," the Mets manager said. "I'm surprised when he swings."
But with the Mets down just one run in the fifth inning, Collins opted to let his pitcher hit for himself -- the pitcher who went nine years between RBIs before managing one in his last start April 12, the pitcher with just 13 hits in 18 big league seasons, the pitcher, who at age 41, seemingly never stops surprising.
"With the bases loaded, I wanted to be aggressive," said Colon, who became the first starter in the Majors to three wins due in large part to his game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth of the Mets' 4-1 win Friday over the Marlins. "I wanted to get a fly ball and bring a run home. That's exactly what I was thinking."
Colon sent his drive to center off David Phelps deep enough to score Eric Campbell from third, sending the 38,753 gathered at Citi Field into a surprised frenzy. For Colon, it was just the second sacrifice fly of his career and first since 2002. That year he set a career high with three RBIs. Through three games this season, he already has two.
"He's been working really hard with [hitting coach] Kevin Long," said Recker, who admitted he thought at the time Colon should have conceded the at-bat by striking out looking. "And he's showcasing it all."
As surprising Colon's offensive production has been, he continues to pitch with ho-hum dominance. Friday he went seven innings for the second consecutive time out and wiggled out of multiple jams, including a first-and-second situation in the seventh to preserve the lead. Now Colon is tied for the Major League lead with three wins in three games, after topping the Mets staff with 15 a year ago.
His victory Friday was the 207th in a career that has demanded he consistently evolve as a pitcher. Once a flamethrower, Colon now finds success with ever-moving fastballs that he commands impeccably. He has walked just one batter in 20 innings this season.
"Now I'm a better pitcher because I can command the situation a lot better than when I used to," Colon said.
By increasing his work with Long and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, Colon has made himself an -- albeit unlikely -- improved offensive player as well.
He rewarded his manager's confidence Friday by coming through when Collins decided against pinch-hitting.
"If we were down more than one run, I would have [pinch-hit]," Collins said. "But when you're just down one run, you still think you're really in the game."
With Colon, the Mets typically are.
Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.