He hadn't toed the rubber in nearly a month, yet Yankees starter Bartolo Colon painted corners and zipped his pitches as if he had never missed any time, sitting down Met after Met in the process.
In his first start after returning from the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, Colon dazzled with six shutout innings in a 5-2 win against the Mets. Colon struck out six and walked none over 80 pitches, while yielding five hits.
Colon has pitched to a 1.00 ERA over his last four starts, throwing 13 scoreless innings in the process and winning four straight decisions.
"I feel really good," Colon said through an interpreter. "The more important thing is the team wins the game."
Without any rehab starts under his belt, the Yankees activated Colon to start the middle game of the Subway Series. He had been 5-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) before his injury while running to cover first base on June 11 against Cleveland.
Jose Reyes led off the game with an infield single to second, but Colon responded by retiring 13 straight Mets. He had impeccable control, throwing 70 percent of his pitches for strikes and had all of his pitches working for him. Colon stressed the importance of him being able to throw strikes and said his breaking balls helped him with that.
Outfielder Curtis Granderson said he marveled from the outfield as he watched Colon's pinpoint command, with velocity usually in the 90s, and said he and Brett Gardner motion to each other in the outfield about the movement on Colon's two-seamer.
Several other Yankees talked of the movement of Colon's pitches and how it neutralizes batters. Catcher Russell Martin added that Colon's sinker has great deception against lefties, as it paints the corner, and against right-handed hitters, it looks like it's going to be a ball but finds its way back into the strike zone.
"That’s as good as I’ve ever seen him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And I've seen him really good."
The Mets threatened against Colon in the fifth, stringing together three hits to load the bases with one out. The rally started with an infield single to the left of the mound by Jason Bay that Colon didn't hustle after, as he said he knew it would be a base hit.
With the bases loaded, Colon battled Mets pitcher Dillon Gee, who fouled off three pitches in a seven-pitch at-bat, before inducing an inning-ending double play as third baseman Alex Rodriguez stepped on the beg and fired across the diamond for the out.
The Yankees went on to score four runs in the sixth inning and Colon pitched the bottom half of the inning before being lifted for a pinch hitter. He's now 6-3 with a 2.88 ERA, the best of any member of the Yankees rotation.
"I'd put him up against anyone right now," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "Hopefully the hamstring thing is behind him and he's going to be healthy for us for the remainder of the season. He's huge to have in our rotation because we need top-line pitchers in our division."
At the halfway point of the season, Colon has emerged as a legitimate ace to complement CC Sabathia in the Yankees rotation. He's struck out 78 batters in 84.1 innings and has only walked 18 batters spanning those innings. In four of his 11 starts, he's left the game without giving up a run and is the only Yankees starter to throw a shutout.
He entered the rotation once Phil Hughes went on the disabled list in April, having started the season in the bullpen, and continues to make his case as one of the best comeback players in baseball.
"He's unbelievable, I've been saying that all year," Rodriguez said. "I haven't played with a guy as unique as him. He throws the ball at an amazing pace and he's a dream to play behind. Does it with pretty much one pitch, fastball, 87 up to 96, four-seamer, cutter and a sinker. He's incredible."