Bartolo Colon has been the winning pitcher in 12 straight starts against the Texas Rangers. No, it is not that he has won his last 12 decisions against the Rangers. He has won his last 12 starts against the Rangers.
How unusual is this?
It has only happened once before, when Pedro Martinez won 12 straight starts against the Seattle Mariners from 1998-2004.
Colon got his 12th straight over the Rangers on Saturday in a 6-3 Angels victory. Colon has not lost to Texas since he joined Los Angeles in 2004. He beat them six times that year, becoming just the second Major League pitcher to have six victories against one club in one season. He is now 17-5 lifetime against the Rangers. Colon has more victories against them than any other club. That is all remarkable, but the 12 straight victories in 12 starts turns this performance from impressive toward astounding.
Whatever else you say about the Rangers, they have typically been known for having plenty of talented hitters and highly productive offenses. Plus, their home, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, is a hitter-friendly facility. Beating them 12 straight times is not like dominating the Washington Nationals.
"Bart's pitched well against a lot of clubs," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But what jumps out is the fact that Texas has had one of the top offenses since we've been in this league. They're always deep. They have a lot of young talent, some terrific veteran hitters.
"You've got to pitch well to shut them down. Believe me, if you see those games, and you see the pitches he has to make and how hard he has to work, it certainly has not been a walk in the park. He's had to work for every out."
It was no day at the beach on Saturday, either, against the Texas lineup. The Angels made life easier on Colon by building a five-run lead by the second inning, but there was still the difficult matter of getting through the Rangers lineup repeatedly.
The Rangers came back with two runs in the fourth on a home run by Mark Teixeira, a 422-foot shot the opposite way that clearly demonstrated the problems that this lineup posed. But Colon did not allow this home run to start a trend. He recovered as well as any pitcher could by striking out the side in the fifth.
The level of difficulty didn't decrease in the sixth, when the Rangers got a run on three singles off Colon. With two on and two out, Brad Wilkerson's bid for a three-run homer ended in a catch by Vladimir Guerrero on the warning track in right.
Colon's work was done, but his streak was still in jeopardy until reliever Scot Shields escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh by retiring Michael Young on a soft liner and striking out Teixeira. The whole exercise indicated clearly just how difficult it is to contain the Texas lineup for one afternoon, much less 12 games in a row.
Colon himself did not appear to be overly impressed with tying the record.
"I was aware what I had done with the Angels against the Rangers, but I never even knew there was a record, but I just tied it," Colon said through an interpreter, Angels broadcaster Jose Mota.
The question remained of how he was able to have this kind of time-after-time success against the Rangers.
"When I was younger with the Indians, [the Rangers] had my number," Colon said. "It seemed like I always had a hard time getting them. They usually gave me a hard time. There's no way to explain what's going on now, other than I've been able to make the pitches at a crucial time. I don't know how it's happening."
But Scioscia thought he had a reasonably good idea about what was happening for Colon. And he was particularly impressed in light of the fact that Colon missed the vast majority of last season with a rotator cuff injury and began this season on the disabled list. In five starts this season, Colon is 4-0.
"[Colon's] philosophy is terrific," the manager said. "He's the same guy. It's been great to see, not only a pitcher who has worked hard to get his velocity back, but also his command. He's been right on the money.
"He makes that fastball into three or four different looks. He's as good as there's ever been at doing that. He's showed that every start. He's got the two-seamer, the four-seamer up, he'll go outside with both and pitch inside. He's had a good breaking ball since he's come back and also with a changeup. So his stuff is crisp. He got a little tired today, I think he got out of his mechanics as the game got later, but Bart has the same stuff as we saw a couple of years ago. We want to maintain that, and there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to."
In the end, Colon's remarkable run of success against the Texas Rangers goes back to the fundamental notion that outstanding pitching will trump even the best hitting. Winning 12 straight starts against this team will qualify as outstanding pitching; in quality, in quantity, by any reasonable measurement.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.