Amazin’ Ten of 2014: #2 – June 18


What makes a starting pitcher unsung? Perhaps when he throws with finesse in an age of firepower. Perhaps when he’s the old guy in a rotation of young stallions. In this case, it is when he shows up as starter four times in a top games of the year countdown and never gets a personal profile. Until today. This penultimate Amazin’ Ten story is the fifth one of 2014 in which Bartolo Colon is penciled in on the mound and ninth in the batting order. And this is the one when his bat finally mattered.

Jun 18, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) fields a ground ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. The Mets won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

#2 – Bartolo Colon, Rally Maker (or: “Let’s watch him run!”) [June 18]

After rediscovering his touch in Oakland in 2013 (18-6, 2.65, AL-leading three shutouts), 40-year-old Bartolo Colon earned a two-year deal worth $20 million from Sandy Alderson. With Matt Harvey out of commission and another top prospect not due till midseason, Colon was regarded as little more than a rotation stopgap. He would come along and eat innings – some writers chose to put emphasis on “eat” – and keep Harvey’s seat warm till 2015.

Through 13 starts, Bartolo did just that, averaging nearly seven innings a pop while going 6-5 with a 4.15 ERA. While a few outings went the way you’d expect a 41-year-old’s starts to go, Colon flashed his 2005 Cy Young form against Atlanta and Pittsburgh. But on this anniversary of another Amazin’ Met moment, Bartolo Colon would do so much more.

Bartolo got the nod for the Mets’ getaway day in St. Louis. New York had lost 11 of 14 and needed something, anything, to salvage what was supposed to be a season of moving forward. Things looked typically bleak when Matt Carpenter took Colon deep to lead off the bottom of the first. The Dominican settled down and kept the Cardinals under sedation for the next five innings. Unfortunately for the Mets, a Lance Lynn-St. Louis summer heat cocktail proved to be just as sedative. The game remained 1-0 halfway through as the New Yorkers appeared on the verge of another sweep.

Colon came to the batters box to lead off the top of the sixth. It would have been acceptable to excuse him as an easy out. Heretofore, he was considered the most entertaining easy out in baseball. For the rest of the season, he would still be considered as such. But for one glorious moment on a June Wednesday afternoon in St. Louis, Bartolo Colon was not an easy out.

Gary Cohen had the day off, so the honor fell upon Kevin Burkhardt to provide us with the best Mets broadcast call of 2014:

Colon…rips one! It’s a base hit, Colon! Let’s watch him run. Around first. He’s gonna take his time and jog on in there. Bartolo Colon with his first base-hit of the year! It’s a leadoff double and they’re going nuts. (We’ll miss you, KB.)

His teammates indeed went nuts, waving towels over their heads in excitement for the big man’s triumph. Yes, not only did Bartolo Colon hit his first career double for his first base hit in nine years, he inspired a new craze. Hit towels became a thing. The 7 Line even started selling them. In all seriousness, had nothing else come of Colon’s double, it still may have made an appearance on our Amazin’ Ten countdown.

But something did come of it. Eric Young doubled to the gap two pitches later, just deep enough for Colon to make it home with the tying run, his first in 12 years. Daniel Murphy’s groundout then advanced Young to third, and David Wright plated him with a blooper down the right field line. The New York Mets had taken a lead on a rally started by Bartolo Colon. And it was glorious.

Jul 10, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) grounds out against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Colon even had himself an encore in the seventh. He bunted Wilmer Flores over to second, which allowed Flores to score on Young’s ground-rule double moments later. Without that bunt, Flores would have been stuck at third base when the double bounced into the stands along left field. He would have stayed there when Murphy’s strikeout ended the inning. Instead, the Mets had a 3-1 lead that Colon would go to work protecting.

By the time he got his handshake after the eighth inning, Bartolo Colon had pitched as of then his best outing of 2014: after the leadoff homer, he allowed just three more hits and kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard, walking none and striking out one on just 86 pitches. Jenrry Mejia’s struggle through the ninth threatened to spoil the day, but Dana Eveland got Matt Adams to ground out and seal the deal, 3-2.

The Mets were 31-40 when Colon sent a rocket into the left field corner at Busch Stadium. After Colon’s hit, they were 48-43. It may not seem impressive, but a .527 run over 162 games is 85 wins, not too far off the pace for a wild card. Bartolo’s double and the introduction of the hit towels sparked a solid conclusion to the 2014 campaign.

Though he only had one more hit the rest of the season – a single in his very next start – Colon finished with one of the best 41-year-old seasons of all-time. He made it over 200 innings pitched for the first time since his Cy Young year of 2005, winning a team-best 15 games with a 4.09 ERA and the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.03) of his career. By also serving as a leader in the clubhouse for the younger players, Bartolo added brought multiple dimensions, and certainly the most whimsy, to the Mets in 2014.

Colon’s consistency allows for Sandy Alderson to shop around Dillon Gee and Jon Niese without poking a hole in his April rotation, but with Harvey on track to start Opening Day and Noah Syndergaard surely not too far behind, Bartolo’s time in New York may be limited next season. Whatever happens, Mets fans will take fond memories of the man with the windmill swing. Without a doubt, Bartolo Colon was worth it.

June 18: the 2nd-most Amazin’ game of 2014. And just like that, we’re down to one. On Monday morning, we’ll reveal the top Mets moment of the year that was. Stay tuned.

Amazin’ Ten of 2014

#10 – DeGrom’s Finale Shuts Down Braves (September 21)

#9 – Duda Dings Dodgers (August 24)

#8 – D’Arnaud’s Return Sparks Thrashing of Kazmir (June 24)

#7 – A Grand(y) Walk-Off (April 25)

#6 – Bronx Bombing (May 12)

#5 – Wheeler’s Beach Party (June 19)

#4 – DeGrom Outduels Peavy (or: “Oh wow!”) [August 2]

#3 – Lagares Silences Doubters for Good (May 17)

#2 – Bartolo Colon, Rally Maker (or: “Let’s watch him run!”) [June 18]

#1 – Milestones and Momentum (September 28)