Real or not? Bartolo Colon and Carlos Beltran still have it

Carlos Beltran first faced Bartolo Colon on Sept. 20, 1998. He was a 21-year-old rookie for the Royals who had played his first major league game a few days earlier. Colon was 25 years old, an All-Star that year for the Indians in his first full season in the majors. Beltran led off the game and struck out swinging on five pitches and would go 1-for-4 against Colon in the game, including a ground ball single in the seventh inning.

There was much bigger news that day, however, as Cal Ripken ended his consecutive-games streak at 2,632. Then there was the historic home run duel between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. McGwire slammed his 65th home run and had another possible homer overturned when it was ruled a fan reached over the fence. Sosa, meanwhile, went 0-for-5 to remain at 63 home runs (he would briefly pass McGwire a few days later).

That's how long Beltran and Colon have been playing. For those of us of a certain age, that home run chase seems like an event from another life. Maybe it was. Maybe Beltran and Colon have played two baseball lives. The AP story that night cited Colon's performance:

Colon resembled the pitcher he was before the All-Star Game, when he would blow away opposing lineups as if he were in a higher league. "That was Bartolo's best outing this half," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He still had some lapses but on the whole, it was a positive game."

Beltran hit his first home run off Colon on June 29, 2000, and would connect three times in 2001, including twice on June 30. They were still with their original teams then, but since that two-homer day, Beltran has played for seven teams, including this second stint with the Astros, and Colon has played for nine teams, including two stints with the White Sox. That's the setup for this:

OK, as if that home run wasn't cool enough on its own, here's a fun piece of trivia, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: The 5,792 days between Beltran home runs off Colon is the longest span between home runs by the same hitter off the same pitcher in the expansion era (since 1961). Barry Bonds had gone 5,182 days between home runs off Jesse Orosco on July 9, 1988, and then again on Sept. 16, 2002. In a footnote to that note, Orosco also gave up the final home run of Bobby Bonds' career.

Baseball is the best.

Beltran's home run came in the first inning, part of a five-run explosion for the Astros, en route to an 8-3 victory. While Colon managed to gut out 5 2/3 innings, his ERA climbed to 7.22 and you start to wonder how much the 43-year-old has left in the tank. Let's hope this is just a rough patch for him, because baseball without Bartolo will be a sad day.

First thing's first. The big first inning for the Astros was part of another of Tuesday's unique developments: Six teams scored at least four runs in the first inning, the first time that happened since Sept. 1, 1890. OK, that's kind of goofy minutiae, but it gives me the excuse to mention those teams in 1890 included the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the National League, the Syracuse Stars of the American Association and the Boston Reds of the Players League.

Tuesday's other big innings:

  • The Brewers scored five runs off of Drew Pomeranz as Eric Thames hit his 13th home run. That Red Sox rotation that was supposed to be so good? It's 13th in the AL in ERA.

  • The Phillies scored four off of Ariel Miranda and the Mariners -- only to lose 10-9 as Ben Gamel went 4-for-5 with a walk and threw out the potential go-ahead run at home in the bottom of the eighth.

  • The Rangers scored five off of Jered Weaver in an 11-0 win over the Padres as A.J. Griffin spun a four-hit shutout. The best rotation ERA in the majors? The Texas Rangers.

  • The Mets scored four off of Jeff Samardzija, clawing back to .500 while Samardzija's ERA climbs to 5.44. But he had nine strikeouts and no walks, so his FIP remains awesome.

  • The Rays with four runs off of Chris Young -- only to eventually lose 7-6 to the Royals. That's five blown leads of at least three runs for the Rays, tied with the Rangers for most in the majors.

The best record in baseball ... Belongs to the Baltimore Orioles. On a day when the Baltimore Sun reported that Zach Britton will miss 45 to 60 days, the Orioles were once again stellar while the Nationals were once again a disaster. Trying to close out Max Scherzer's 4-2 lead, Enny Romero gave up two runs in the ninth and then Jacob Turner took the loss in the 12th. Meanwhile, Logan Verrett threw three scoreless innings for the Orioles.

It's understandable that the lefty Romero was brought in to face Chris Davis -- he walked him -- but strange that Dusty Baker left him in to face right-handed Mark Trumbo, right-handed Trey Mancini, right-handed Jonathan Schoop and right-handed J.J. Hardy.

Romero is a hard-throwing lefty, but one with a 5.13 career ERA. Baker apparently didn't want to use Blake Treinen for a third straight day and simply didn't trust anyone else with Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover both on the DL. The Nationals have overcome that mess of a pen so far, but you know GM Mike Rizzo is burning the phone lines asking about relievers.

Play of the day. MLB's Statcast says this Carlos Gonzalez catch was one of the best of the season, maybe the best, at least by their catch probability formula:

Great catch for sure, but best of the year? I don't know. What do you think?

Quick thoughts ... The Matt Harvey saga hit another twist as we learned he was suspended for missing Saturday's game after being out drinking until 4 a.m. the night before. Jerry Crasnick writes that one speech to his teammates won't be enough to win his credibility back. I agree, and you wonder if this will eventually end with Harvey getting traded. ... Keep an eye on a Robinson Cano injury update, as he left Tuesday's game because of a quad strain. The Mariners are already suffering with Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly and James Paxton on the DL, three-fifths of their projected rotation. ... Courtesy of Aaron Gleeman: Byron Buxton, first 15 games: .082/.135/.122, 46 percent K rate; next 12 games: .333/.442/.500, 21 percent K rate. I believe he's going to be what they call a streaky hitter. ... Julio Urias took a no-hitter into the seventh for the Dodgers. I'm with my friend Howard Cole: As Urias refines that command, he's the kind of pitcher who can throw 95-pitch complete games someday. ... Speaking of that, a shutout with fewer than 100 pitches is referred to as a "Maddux" by the smart kids on Twitter, in honor of Greg Maddux. Joe Posnanski caught up with Maddux, who wasn't aware of the term. Griffin just missed a Maddux with his shutout, throwing 104 pitches. ... One final note related to my piece on the new wave of power-hitting leadoff hitters. I mentioned Don Mattingly's use of Dee Gordon as his leadoff hitter. Well, on Tuesday, for the first time that Gordon started, he didn't hit leadoff, as J.T. Realmuto hit there while Gordon hit ninth. Let's see if Mattingly sticks with this.