Colon defies time, makes history against Cardinals

Colon defies time, makes history against Cardinals
June 28, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Bartolo Colon became the first MLB pitcher ever to win the first seven starts of his 40s Friday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

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OAKLAND -- No pitcher in Major League Baseball history has entered their 40s on such a dominant tear as Bartolo Colon.

"I don't even know what to say," Colon said through a translator after silencing one of baseball's most complete teams in the A's 6-1 win over the Cardinals on Friday. "Thank God."

[RECAP: A's 6, Cardinals 1]

The first player ever to win his first seven starts in his 40s won his eighth straight start overall Friday night, giving him 11 wins at the statistical half-way point in the season. The last time Colon did that was in 2005, when he won the Cy Young Award with the Angels.

The last two pitchers to reach the 10-win plateau over an entire season were Jamie Moyer and Tim Wakefield -- a finesse lefty and a knuckleballer. That Colon already has 11 wins on a steady dose of right-handed fastballs in the low 90s is even more impressive.

"You do the math," manager Bob Melvin said. "At this point, he's put himself in position to have a very nice year."

Colon was his usual accurate self; he hurled 70 of his 101 pitches into the strike zone, starting off 22 of 29 batters with a first-pitch strike. He cruised through the first four innings, throwing 42 pitches and facing the minimum 12 batters.

But Colon made his mark over his final four innings, when he scattered six hits, two double plays and a pair of Cardinals stranded at third base. The only run he allowed was the only walk he issued.

"He really doesn't put himself on the run when there are guys on base," Melvin said of Colon's ability to get out of tough innings. "He's got such good movement. He keeps the ball away from the barrel of the bat, and he knows he's one pitch away from getting a ground ball and getting out of the inning."

Colon left runners on the corners in the fifth and seven, and induced rally-killing double play balls from Yadier Molina -- the National League's best hitter at .357 -- in the sixth and eighth. It's a simple recipe for Colon, one that's worked for years. With runners on, he sets up his two-seam fastball and lets it bore down and in on right-handers.

"They were sinkers down and in," Vogt confirmed. "We had him set up looking away and Bartolo made great pitches."

Despite the solid outing, there was never a question in Melvin's mind about pulling Colon for the ninth.

"I need to get him through a whole season," Melvin said. "He's 40 years old."

Colon didn't reserve all his thanks for God. Upon walking off the mound after completing eight innings, Colon embraced battery-mate Stephen Vogt, making his third career start for the A's, and said, "Thanks Papi."

"I believe he called a great game," Colon said. "And I believe he's a great catcher."

It's high praise for the 28-year-old Vogt, who is playing largely because John Jaso is dealing with an injured wrist and Derek Norris is struggling mightily against right-handed pitchers. But he made the most of his time Friday.

Vogt shook off an 0-for-32 start to his MLB career and connected on a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning. Curiously, no one was waiting to celebrate with him in the dugout.

"It's the greatest thing in the world to get the silent treatment," Vogt said. "It's neat to have this team kind of adopt me over the past three games. They've been treating me really well and it's been really special."

Vogt will be a few million votes short, but Colon deserves to be an All-Star -- no question. He even has a shot at starting the July 16 exhibition in New York.

(The Tigers' Max Scherzer poses the biggest threat, as he pushed his still-perfect record to 12-0 with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night.)

"I don't think about the All-Star game," Colon said. "I think about my next real start before it."

Colon's next real start is scheduled for Thursday afternoon against the Cubs, when he has a chance to become the first player in Major League Baseball history to win the first eight starts of his 40s.

 

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