Colon flirts with perfection as Mets down M's
Veteran righty retires 20 straight before Cano singles in seventh
SEATTLE -- Bartolo Colon is 41 years old, a decade removed from the back end of most players' primes. He weighs in officially at 285 pounds and he throws, essentially, one pitch.
Yet as Colon defies all that and more during his late-career renaissance, the Mets are reaping the spoils. Taking a perfect game into the seventh inning Wednesday at Safeco Field, Colon settled for 7 1/3 strong innings in a 3-2 win over the Mariners with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline -- and all its implications -- looming over him.
"You just sensed it in the first inning," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Probably the second hitter you said, 'He's on today.' We saw some funny swings from good hitters. That's when you say, 'Score some runs for him today, because he's going to dominate.'"
Relying as usual on his array of fastballs that cut, sink or explode across the strike zone, Colon struck out five and walked one, throwing 81 percent fastballs. He gave up a series of hard-hit fly-ball outs in the fifth and sixth innings, but not a single baserunner into the seventh.
Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano finally redirected a 92-mph fastball to the opposite field with two outs in that inning, ending Colon's bid for a perfect game. From there, things unraveled a bit for the right-hander, with Brad Miller's RBI single finally chasing him with one out in the eighth. But Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia managed to lock down the final five outs without major incident, the latter leaping off the mound in what has become his trademark save celebration.
"Check the resume -- he's pretty good," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said of Colon. "Listen, I've seen him do it to a lot of clubs, a lot of powerhouse clubs. Today was his day. I'm not going to sit here and overanalyze that."
"We always expect a lot from Bartolo," catcher Anthony Recker said. "He's our veteran. He's our lead guy. He's our horse, and we've got to ride him as far as we can."
Colon's excellence was necessary for a Mets team that continued to struggle at the plate. Facing rookie Taijuan Walker, whom the Mariners recalled from Triple-A Tacoma before the game, New York's offense essentially stalled after Daniel Murphy's RBI single in the first.
It was not until Walker beaned Ruben Tejada in the head in the fifth -- concussion tests were negative, and Tejada expects to play this weekend -- that things began changing for the Mets. Admittedly shaken, Walker walked three of the next five batters he faced, allowing Juan Lagares to plate the Mets' second run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Yet another Met crossed home on David Wright's RBI single off Dominic Leone an inning later, providing the Mets with an insurance policy that they would eventually cash in.
"Definitely," Walker said when asked if Tejada's head injury affected the rest of his outing. "You never want to hit anybody in the head, especially with a fastball. It's a scary thing, but you have to kind of shake it off and get back into the game. But it is tough."
The result was a second consecutive win for a Mets team that salvaged a 3-3 West Coast trek through San Diego and Seattle. Their road trip concludes with four games in Milwaukee beginning Thursday, which should have a profound effect on their strategy at the Trade Deadline.
At the center of that is Colon, whose value to a contender would be significant should the Mets fall completely out of the playoff race. If that occurs, the Mets would have little need for Colon, knowing their 2015 rotation is already primed to include Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, with Rafael Montero also on the club's radar.
But a Mets team that does plan to crash the 2014 postseason could certainly use Colon's services, as well as those of fellow trade candidate Murphy. So the front office must decide -- and soon -- how realistic the playoffs are, before determining if Colon will have the opportunity to dominate for the Mets once more.
"I don't know anything about that," Colon said through an interpreter. "Those are decisions for the upper management, and you can't control that stuff."