"I think this was real big, because this is a hot ballclub," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "When we came in here, the Blue Jays were swinging the bats pretty well. Bartolo has been pitching for a long time, but an outing like that will do a lot for him and his confidence."
Feeling the lingering effects of some allergy issues and a stomach bug, Colon surrendered seven hits and three runs -- two earned -- over five innings against the Blue Jays, who had averaged 4.8 runs over their previous 13 games in May. This was at least similar to the kind of outing the Braves envisioned when they gave the veteran pitcher a one-year, $12.5 million deal in November.
It was also the kind of outing they feared they might not see again from Colon, who had created concern about his future while compiling a 9.55 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .375 against him in the four most recent starts leading into Monday.
Colon's effort at least allowed the Braves to tap the brakes regarding the possibility of promoting either Lucas Sims or Sean Newcomb from Triple-A Gwinnett. Sims or Newcomb might be deemed Major League-ready within the next few weeks. But for now, there is not yet a vacancy in Atlanta's rotation.
"[Colon] is a professional," Braves left fielder Matt Kemp said of Colon. "He's a gamer. He takes the ball whenever we need him to. He did his thing tonight. Hopefully it carries over."
After allowing the Astros five runs before he recorded his first out in Houston last week, Colon committed himself to throwing more offspeed pitches, then carried that approach over to this start. He threw three changeups during a perfect 10-pitch first inning against the Blue Jays and then spent the remainder of his outing changing speeds with both his four-seam and two-seam fastball.
"I felt like everything was working today," Colon said through an interpreter. "Everything was feeling good. I started throwing some offspeed pitches in the first inning, and I usually don't do that. I usually focus on the fastball in the first. That offspeed stuff yielded the results I was seeking."
For the first time during the Statcast™ Era, Colon didn't record a swinging strike during a start. But the improved action on his two-seamer helped him draw 11 of his 16 called strikes. He surrendered consecutive one-out doubles with the two-seamer in the second inning, but for the most part, he at least regained some confidence in the pitch, which had previously yielded a .322 batting average this year.
"You could see it from left field," Kemp said. "He was definitely moving the ball more. I don't know if the ball was flatter his past couple starts, but he was moving the ball the way you expect him to, especially last year when he was facing us; he was moving the ball a lot. When he does that, it's tough."