43-year-old Colon shuts down Pirates bats in Mets win
NEW YORK — Sitting behind the desk inside the visiting manager's office, Clint Hurdle ticked off the ways New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon can make life difficult for opposing hitters.
“He's adjusted,” Hurdle said. “He used to throw 95, 96, power. He's still throwing fastballs, which goes to show the craftsmanship. He cuts it, he sinks it, he still four seams it. He can pitch to all four quadrants of the plate. He can go up-and-in, down-and-away, down-and-in, up-and-away, take something off, he'll throw the occasional changeup, the occasional spin pitch.
“But you're going to see fastballs. He's going to pitch to spots and location. He pitches off hitters' adrenaline as much as anything else.”
Hurdle's words three hours before his team took on the reigning National League champions were a portend of another night when little went according to script for the Pirates in their 6-4 loss to the Mets on Thursday at Citi Field.
The Pirates dropped the last two of the three-game series to fall to 33-33 this season. They head to Chicago to begin a three-game weekend series with the MLB-best Cubs trailing by 12 games in the NL Central.
Colon followed Noah Syndergaard's 11-strikeout performance one night prior by limiting the Pirates to two runs and seven hits in 7 2⁄3 innings. Colon struck out eight and, having become a folk hero for his hitting in the twilight of his career, also went 1 for 3 day with a run scored.
“He's able to locate,” said Andrew McCutchen, who along with Josh Harrison had two hits apiece off the 43-year-old right-hander.
“He's able to put it where he wants it. He (was) locating, man.”
McCutchen finished 3 for 4, with a solo homer off Addison Reed in the ninth.
While the Pirates were unable to solve Colon, the Mets feasted on Juan Nicasio, who was roughed up for six runs and seven hits in 4 1⁄3 innings. His ERA rose from 5.34 to 5.83.
Nicasio's rough outing began almost as soon as he took the mound.
Curtis Granderson hammered his 17th career leadoff homer as a Met — the 41st of his career — over the bullpen in right-center off Nicasio's 3-2 pitch to put the Mets ahead 1-0.
Nicasio (5-6) didn't bother to track Granderson's shot. Instead, he grabbed a new ball as Granderson rounded the bases.
“My (pitches) felt good,” Nicasio said through a translator. “However, they were a little high in the zone, and when that stuff begins to happen, it's setting my game behind. Those are things I (have) to continue working harder on.”
New York's early offense was in stark contrast to the Pirates, who had an opportunity to jump on Colon in the first. But Michael Conforto's diving catch in left with two outs in the first ended their scoring threat.
The deficit grew to 5-0 in the third as the Mets put up four runs. The inning began with Colon's leadoff double, and he scored on Yoenis Cespedes' sacrifice fly. Neil Walker followed with a two-run homer, and Conforto slugged his 10th home run of the season.
Walker continued to torment his hometown and former team in the fifth with an RBI double to left that scored Asdrubal Cabrera.
Perhaps the only positives occurred in the Pirates' final two innings. They kept their season-long streak of not being shut out with Matt Joyce's leadoff home run in the eighth. The homer to center was the 100th of Joyce's career. Four batters later, Harrison's RBI single ended Colon's night.
In the top of the ninth, McCutchen's 10th homer of the season cut the deficit to 6-3, and Jung Ho Kang's double forced Terry Collins to replace Reed with closer Jeurys Familia. Familia yielded John Jaso's RBI groundout before wrapping up his 22nd save of the season.
“The game's not over regardless of what the score is,” McCutchen said. “You (have) to have a selfish attitude in this game.
“We're going to get ours. That's the way we look at it.”
Denis P. Gorman is a freelance writer.