MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Experienced Colon should start in postseason

Veteran right-hander brings extensive October resume to a young staff

Experienced Colon should start in postseason

NEW YORK -- The Mets will undoubtedly win the National League East and make the postseason even though they are limping to the finish line.

And when they get there, manager Terry Collins and the baseball operations team is going to have to figure out how to fit the seemingly ageless Bartolo Colon into the rotation.

"That, is a big question," Juan Uribe said after the Braves stunned the Mets, 6-3, on Freddie Freeman's three-run, ninth-inning homer off closer Jeurys Familia on Wednesday night at Citi Field.

With all the controversy surrounding young starters Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, Colon simply takes the ball every five days and pitches. At 42, the right-hander looks like he should be pitching in a beer league, but he's tossed a staff-high 188 2/3 innings so far this season.

Collins on Mets' 6-3 loss

And nobody is worried about his pitch count, cumulative innings pitched or his arm falling off. Colon has 10 postseason starts on his resume. The other five starters have a grand total of zero. That's the kind of experience a team wants and needs when it gets to the postseason.

"I know what you're saying," Uribe said. "But I'm just a player. I'm not the manager. I don't make those decisions."

On Wednesday night, Colon allowed only one infield single through the first five innings and pitched unscathed out of a first and third, one-out situation in the sixth. Collins came out and got him with the bases jammed and one out in the seventh.

When he left in lieu of Addison Reed, the Mets had a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, including a two-run, pinch-hit double by Freeman, that lead was gone and the Mets were behind by a run.

Colon had tossed just 75 pitches at the time and Collins might as well have given him another chance to wiggle out of the situation. It couldn't have turned out any worse.

"He was tremendous," Collins said when asked about Colon's performance. "I didn't see too many good swings against him the entire night. Just, all of a sudden, they got some hits and I went to a guy who has been pitching brilliantly. [Colon] was outstanding."

That's the point, isn't it? Colon spots the ball well and doesn't walk many batters, 24 on the season. He gives the Mets a chance to win, which is all a manager can ask.

The Mets will probably face the Dodgers in the NL Division Series, barring a historic collapse in the last 10 days by either of the teams. Despite a disappointing homestand in which the Mets lost six of the nine games, they hit the road for four in Cincinnati and three in Philadelphia with a 6 1/2-game lead and 10 to play.

The Nationals have picked up three games in the standings since the homestand began with a Mets win over the Marlins on Sept. 14. It could have been much worse if Washington hadn't lost to the Orioles the last two days while the Braves were beating the Mets.

Still up for grabs is home-field advantage in the best-of-five series with the Dodgers, who now hold the narrowest of leads.

Collins knows the Mets will face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games regardless of whether the series opens in New York or Los Angeles. If the Mets can somehow split those two games, they'll have an advantage.

"If they start Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard you have to like their chances," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before the game.

You'd figure those young right-handers will indeed get the first three games even if their innings are limited by either performance or overuse.

It would make sense to have the lefties, Steven Matz and Jon Niese, in the bullpen for immediate backup and give the Dodgers a different look in the middle innings. That way Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will exhaust his bench early.

Thus, Colon is a perfect choice for Game 4, tossing his funky offspeed stuff after the bevy of hard throwers. But right now, there's a little matter of nailing down the division title. The magic number for that to happen is any combination of five Mets wins and Nationals losses.

"I told you before the game that I haven't looked there. I haven't investigated, I haven't even talked about [the postseason rotation] to anybody," Collins said. "We have business to attend to first. [Colon] has one more start left and I need him to pitch as well as he did tonight in that start."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.