Mets 4 Braves 3
I know Bartolo Colon isn’t everyone’s favorite person, but I love watching the guy. I’d watch him pitch softball. Damn, I’d watch him play petanque. He struts and postures and pouts like an XXXL Mick Jagger, basically playing chicken with hitters and usually winning.
Colon showcases four pitches. There’s the change-up inside that no one bothers to swing at. There’s the slider outside no one bothers to swing at (well, Nick Markakis did in the 6th… but it’s rare). His signature pitch is a fastball that gently curves from left to right at 86-91 mph… people like to fly out to that. And then there’s his meatball, his two-strike and straight-down-the-middle fastball that hitters often forget to hit for extra bases. Jonny Gomes hit one of those BP fastballs for a homer and Andrelton Simmons crushed a couple of them. But, somehow, they mostly they get outs, and they were enough to get Colon his second win and save the bullpen too much work.
Colon is the master of economy. He threw 77 pitches over 7 innings and 72 of them were fastballs. He also dumped a base hit over second base and laughed as he did so. The bleachers shook as he lumbered over to cover first base a couple of times, but he gets there. He expends more energy winking and smiling at everyone around him. Like a maniac in a truck, he just barrels forward with constant strikes. And, unlike Jenrry Meija, I hope it’s just fueled by tequila and courage.
The Mets’ offense was mostly fueled by Michael Cuddyer. He’s had a rough start and is leading the NL in strikeouts. Like David Wright yesterday, he golfed a two-run homer in the first with an ugly uppercut swing. It worked but it didn’t look great. But I’m still convinced he’s a 4-for-4 away from everyone thinking he’s doing great. Yeah, he looked horrible in the 5th on a change-up outside and almost lazy on Simmons’ double, but he’s an oddly reassuring grey-haired presence. The SNY team told us that Fredi Gonzalez said the “6th tool is character” when describing Jonny Gomes’ skills. I guess Cuddyer has the same effect, just without Gomes’ annoying tipping of the helmet.
The 5 and 1 Braves are a strange team. I’m also convinced they are not a good team. Alberto Callaspo botched a couple of plays, but more notable was that Alex Wood threw a laser-straight fastball and gentle off-speed pitches with a consistent break that made them hittable. Despite Wood’s gaudy numbers last year (1.14 WHIP), the Braves’ “number two” looked very tame and he seemed scared to throw his looping curveball. He’s got a swiveling, lanky delivery and he was unlucky at times – Anthony Recker should have been called out in the third on an 0 and 2 pitch – but his stuff looked very similar to Jerry Blevins. Blevins did a decent job in relief for the Mets, playing the swingman role that Wood used to have. The Braves also had Eric Young Jr. leading off. He’s another player I love (I winced when he struck out on four pitches in the first) but he should not be batting first in any lineup.
This first trip has been strange too. The Mets are 3-3 despite being unable to hit the ball. Nine hits in this game felt like some sort of miracle. Curtis Granderson is playing his own game of chicken, waiting for the pitcher to throw him a strike. He may end up with a .350 on-base percentage on 100 hits. Wright is still upper-cutting and Wilmer Flores looks lost at sea with nothing but chewing gum for company.
But, somehow, Lucas Duda is hitting left-handed pitching. Travis d’Arnaud has a nice, flat swing. Jeurys Familia’s pitches seem to be remote-controlled (did you see the sink on his last pitch?) And Colon – the kinda lovable Bartolo Colon – is leading the league in wins.
I heard this week that Colon keeps everyone loose by letting off firecrackers in the clubhouse. Well, that would get me on the toilet too. But if it wakes up the offense then let’s say thanks to the XXXL Jagger. When his right arm falls off, he’ll still be able to win games throwing underarm with his left.