Facing the Padres on Saturday night, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon slugged the first home run of his 19-year career. It was a majestic 365-foot shot down the left field line at Petco Park off of a James Shields fastball.
One knew it was a big deal simply from the excitement in SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen’s voice. Colon, a veteran of 19 seasons, turns 43 years old later this month. He’s taken 249 plate appearances in his career, 145 of them coming within the last three years with the Mets. With the exception of 2002, when he spent half the season with the Montreal Expos, Colon didn’t take regular at-bats until he was 40 years old.
Colon’s lack of hitting prowess has often been a punchline, even here. We spoke of it as if we would never see him hit a home run during a regular season game. We settled for a batting practice home run, and a line drive foul ball. And yesterday, Christmas came early.
This is why pitchers hitting makes baseball so fun. We expect a bona fide slugger who can’t field at any position to have skill at the plate. Nelson Cruz or Prince Fielder slamming a baseball 450 feet isn’t novel. Colon homering is novel. How about the time in 2012 when then-Phillies ace Cole Hamels and Giants pitcher Matt Cain traded home runs off of each other?
How about Joe Blanton‘s World Series home run? Or Madison Bumgarner outclassing many hitters who are paid to do just that?
Pitchers make outs approximately 85 percent of the time they come to the plate. The other 15 percent makes it all worth it, as does the half a percent chance that the pitcher hits one out of the park. When we go to the ballpark, there’s always the chance we’ll see something that’s never been done before. During Colon’s 473rd career start — most among active players — he did something he’d never done before in his career.
The postseason has a knack for finding unlikely heroes. Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki was 1-for-23 in the postseason entering Wednesday’s Game 2 of the World Series. The Nats and Astros each plated two runs in the first inning, then went otherwise scoreless through the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, with Justin Verlander returning to the mound, Suzuki demolished a high, 1-0 fastball just below the train tracks in left field at Minute Maid Park, breaking the 2-2 tie.
Verlander proceeded to walk Victor Robles, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to take his veteran starter out of the game. Ryan Pressly came in to attempt to keep it a one-run game.
The underdog Nationals held on to defeat the Astros 5-4 in Game 1. Another victory by the Nats in Game 2 would put the Astros — heavy favorites according to oddsmakers — in a big hole.
Update: Pressly walked the first batter he faced, Trea Turner. Adam Eaton successfully sacrifice bunted both runners over. After Anthony Rendon flied out to shallow center field, Hinch decided to issue his team’s first intentional walk of the entire year to Juan Soto, loading the bases. Howie Kendrick then hit what appeared to be an inning-ending ground out, but Alex Bregman booted the ball as he moved to his left. Turner scored to make it 4-2. The floodgates opened when Asdrúbal Cabrera lined a single to center field, bringing home two more runs to pad the lead to 6-2. While pitching to Ryan Zimmerman, Pressly uncorked a wild pitch to allow the two base runners to advance. Zimmerman followed up with a slow roller down the third base line which Bregman barehanded and proceeded to throw away. Two more runs scored. 8-2. Yiiiikes, Astros.