With Bartolo Colon pitching on the same day that Dinosaur Education Day was held at Citi Field, you'd expect to hear a bunch of fossil jokes. Instead (or perhaps, in addition to that), Mets fans were blessed with a pitching masterpiece by Colon. In seven-and-one-third innings, the 41-year-old allowed just six Pirates to reach base, struck out a season-high nine batters, and recorded his 2,000th career strikeout, all while leading the Amazins to a 5-0 win.
At first, it didn't seem like New York's defense wanted to cooperate with Colon's brilliance. Twice in the first six innings, Starling Marte reached base via a throwing error by David Wright. Although both plays were officially scored "E5," it sure looked like Lucas Duda should have scooped one if not both throws out of the dirt for outs. Either way, both plays gave Pedro Alvarez a chance to drive in multiple runs, but both times Colon punched out Alvarez with a high fastball.
The Alvarez strikeouts were not the norm for Colon, because while both of those came with the slugger swinging at a Colon heater, the rest of his seven strikeouts had to be called by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Colon's two-seamer confounded the Bucs all afternoon long, allowing him to paint corners and stay out of trouble.
It also didn't hurt that the Metsie defense improved as the game wore on. Wright made a nice diving stop to get Andrew McCutchen on a ground out in the sixth. An inning later, Duda laid out to take a hit away from Jordy Mercer. Finally, Josh Harrison looked like he was going to lead off the eighth with an extra-base hit, but Juan Lagares ran down his drive to center field despite having to turn to his other shoulder midway though his sprint for the ball.
Charlie Morton wasn't pitching so badly himself, but the Mets scored a run each in the second and third inning thanks to some Pittsburgh miscues. In fact, New York didn't even need a hit for its first run. After Duda was walked to lead off the second inning, he reached second on a wild pitch and then got to third when Juan Centeno hit a ground ball to shortstop. With Colon batting and two outs on the board, Morton inexcusably threw another wild pitch to allow Duda to come home. While Morton probably should have just thrown the ball over the plate and let Colon get himself out, catcher Chris Stewart also could have done a better job getting in front of the pitch.
That slip-up would have been more regrettable for the Bucs if they didn't allow four additional runs this afternoon. In the third, Daniel Murphy hit a routine ground ball to third that Alvarez threw way over Ike Davis' head at first base. Murphy immediately took off for second, but it looked like he would be thrown out there after a Pirate-friendly carom off of the dugout barrier. Fortune would favor the Mets again, though, as an on-target throw got away from Mercer and Murphy ran all the way to third as a result.
David Wright was up next, and he didn't waste any time getting Murphy home. The captain ripped a single into left-center field to put the Mets up 2-0, and that turned out to be more than enough runs for Colon. The mighty righty didn't get into serious trouble until the eighth, and by then the Mets had increased their lead to 3-0 on the strength of a Wright solo shot in the sixth inning.
After Lagares' great catch, Neil Walker and McCutchen hit back-to-back singles to bring Davis to the plate as the tying run. Terry Collins decided that this was the right time to relieve Colon, who had just finished throwing 121 pitches, he highest total in a single game since 2004.
Collins has been much maligned for his bullpen management during his New York tenure, but today he made the right call. Jeurys Familia came out of the bullpen and on his first pitch, Davis hit a ground ball to second base. Murphy picked it up cleanly and tossed to Ruben Tejada at second for one out. The return throw to first was true, and the Mets had pulled off a timely double play.
Duda tacked on a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, and Familia picked up his first career hit before retiring three or four Pirates batters in the ninth. Now that the Mets have polished off their first series win of May, they'll head to Philly for a very rare five-game series. Zack Wheeler and Philadelphia rookie David Buchanan will kick things off on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Bartolo Colon +29.1%, Lucas Duda +18.2%, David Wright +16.3%
Big losers: Chris Young -7.9%, Curtis Granderson - 6.1%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Duda scores on a wild pitch in the second inning, +10.1%
Teh sux0rest play: Starling Marte reaches second base on an error by David Wright in the fourth inning, -4.8%
Total pitcher WPA: +37.5%
Total batter WPA: +12.5%
GWRBI!: None! The first run was scored by Duda on a Charlie Morton wild pitch.