Jay Bruce's return to Cincinnati was upstaged by a pitching duel between 42-year old Bartolo Colon and 23-year old Robert Stephenson. The Mets sleep walked to a 5-0 win to bolster its Wild Card hopes.
Colon began his career in 1998 when Stephenson was five-years old and has 230 wins under his expanded belt. Stephenson made two winning starts earlier in the year when the Reds' pitching was decimated by injury. He came into the game with two wins in two starts.
Starting in place of the slightly injured Homer Bailey, Stephenson attacked the tired Mets, who played Washington on Sunday Night Baseball and didn't arrive in Cincinnati until 4:00 a.m.
“I definitely wanted to get ahead of the batters," Stephenson said. "The times I got behind, I mostly was able to get out of it. I lot of a lot of outs on 3-2 counts, and I want to limit those in the future.”
Stephenson struck out nine in 5 1/3 innings and gave up six hits and issuing his lone walk in the sixth inning. Two of the hits Stephenson allowed were a single and double to Wilmer Flores, who was thrown out on both occasions by leftfielder Adam Duvall. Two others were Matt Reynolds fourth home run in the third inning and Kelly Johnson's 10th in the fifth. Both players were spelling regulars that played last night.
The Reds threatened Colon all day but double plays extricated him from trouble in the first two innings. The Reds had runners on second and third with no outs in the third. Stephenson struck out looking. Jose Perazza lined out to thirdbase and Zack Cozart flied out to his good buddy Bruce in right.
Stephenson struck out Alejandro De Aza to open the sixth. He walked Michael Conforto and Flores singled for his third hit but with a runner in front of him couldn't risk being thrown out. Rookie Wandy Peralta, who made his Major League debut Sunday, faced Bruce. Bruce hit the ball on a line drive directly to Joey Votto at first. Votto inexplicably chased Flores toward second rather than stepping on the bag. Shouts from Brandon Phillips caught Votto's attention and he retired Flores at a third different base.
“He was good. He worked well with Tucker," Bryan Price said. "He commanded the bottom of the zone with his fastball and changeup and threw a handful of breaking balls when he was behind in the count, which you have to do. He did a nice job.”
Stephenson was happy for the guidance and backing.
“I just put myself in his hands. I only shook him off a couple of times, and I had confidence in myself," Stephenson said. "I was a little nervous in the first inning, but after that, I relaxed. I got some great plays from the defense behind me. I’m a big fan of Adam Duvall now.”
Hernan Iribarren tripled to open the inning batting for Peralta. Perazza flied to straight away right. Thirdbase coach Billy Hatcher knew better than to run on Bruce's arm. Cozart popped foul to first. Votto walked. Colon's last task was accomplished when Duvall also popped out to first.
“Colon was rolling pretty good," Price said. "Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to the pitcher. Those were situations where a pitcher knows what he’s doing. He did a great job. You saw a real masterful pitcher pitch a great game.”
The Mets broke the game open against Alfredo Simon with three runs in the seventh. Travis d'Arnaud walked with one out. Singles by James Loney, Reynolds and pinch hitter Asdrubal Cabrera scored two runs. De Aza delivered the third with a sac fly to right.
Bruce ironically caught the final out of the game, a fly by Eugenio Suarez.