Mets' Colon masterful in shutting down Pirates
NEW YORK — Prior to the Pirates' 5-0 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle materialized a scouting report to explain how 41-year-old Bartolo Colon had made a career of succeeding as a fastball-only pitcher.
In the visiting manager's office at Citi Field, Hurdle opened a three-ring binder to a page containing Colon's heat chart, a color-coded table that shows where a pitcher concentrates his pitches. In the strike zone was a cloud of red data points, showing where Colon most often has located his two- and four-seam fastballs.
Colon pounded the edges of the strike zone against the Pirates on Wednesday, moving his two-seam fastball in and out to generate called strikes and induce weak contact.
He threw 7 1⁄3 shutout innings, walking one and allowing five hits.
“Not a lot of balls in the middle,” Hurdle said. “We couldn't square him up.”
Colon struck out Ike Davis looking on a two-seam fastball on the outside edge in the sixth inning for his 2,000th career strikeout, the 70th pitcher in history to reach the milestone. Seven of Colon's nine strikeouts came looking via two-seamers.
“It's what always makes him effective: movement and location,” Davis said. “It just kind of jumps at you.”
Colon threw 121 pitches, 85 for strikes, in taking a series from the Pirates, who travel to Los Angeles and San Diego to finish their road trip.
Hurdle also referenced heat charts in explaining a staff-wide problem plaguing the Pirates: too many pitches up in the zone.
Pitch-location charts show Pirates starters often are missing up with location compared to last season, when pitches were lower in the strike zone, producing a historic rate of ground balls.
Charlie Morton made mistakes up in the strike zone — and out of the zone.
He walked Lucas Duda to begin the second inning, and with two outs, Duda scored on a wild pitch to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
In the third, David Wright lined an elevated Morton sinker into left field for an RBI single, scoring Daniel Murphy, who had reached on a Pedro Alvarez throwing error.
Alvarez has struggled with throwing accuracy. He said after the game he is physically healthy.
“Pedro has had some challenges throwing the ball across the diamond this year,” Hurdle said. “I don't think there's anything wrong with his arm. He's been working to get more consistent.”
Wright smashed a mid-thigh Morton sinker for a sixth-inning home run to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.
“(Morton) gets ultracompetitive and overthrows a little bit,” Hurdle said. “The rhythm kind of comes and goes.”
Said Morton: “Some of my pitches flattened out.”
Morton fell to 1-7 on the season. He did not make it out of the sixth, allowing four hits, four walks, three runs — two earned — and four strikeouts in 5 1⁄3.
Morton enjoyed a velocity spike in his last start against Washington, collecting his first win, but his fastball velocity was back down in the 90-92 mph range Wednesday. Pitching coach Ray Searage said he and Morton have been working on generating more power from Morton's lower half.
“It's not a huge adjustment, but it is a physical adjustment, and there are going to be highs and lows,” Morton said. “(Wednesday) was just a day where I didn't have a lot.”