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Worth the weight

Colon blows away Mariners with hard, heavy stuff

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Posted: Tuesday October 09, 2001 9:48 PM
  Bartolo Colon Bartolo Colon painted the corners and overpowered Seattle's top hitters with his fastball in eight scoreless innings. AP

By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated

SEATTLE -- Bartolo Colon's first name begins with the letters B-A-R. This makes sense. One look at the way Colon's 6-foot, 240-pound Stay Puft body taunts the seams of his uniform, and it's clear he's spent way too much time at the bar, emptying the bowl of pretzels like a Planters vacuum.

This is fine. Colon, similar to David Wells and, back in the day, Terry Forster, Denny McLain and Sid Fernandez, is designed to be fleshy. It's his thing. History's great bulky pitchers threw hard. History's greater bulky pitchers threw even harder. Colon throws gassssss.

In Monday's 5-0 Game 1 win against a Seattle club that has turned many a stud into tomato paste, Cleveland's off-again, on-again ace put up the best postseason performance of his five-year major league career, holding the suddenly vulnerable Mariners to no runs in eight innings while striking out 10.

Most impressive, he turned back time on baseball's winningest team. Suddenly, these were the frustrated, free-swinging M's of Spike Owen and Dave Fleming and Steve Henderson and Pat Putnam and Tony Bernazard -- inept, helpless, lifeless. Safeco Field was the Kingdome. Lou Piniella was Chuck Cottier. The Mariner Moose was the Mariner Mouse.

Nothing worked.

All because of Colon.

He was, simply, dominant. Never in trouble. Always in control. In the first inning, he struck out Mark McLemore on a 99-mph fastball. In the fourth inning, he struck out Bret Boone on a 99-mph fastball. In the eighth inning, he again struck out McLemore on a 99-mph fastball.

Several times, the M's put a runner on base with two outs. Several times, Colon expunged the threat with a nuclear heater. "Give him all the credit -- he was nasty," said McLemore. "The fastballs of most hard throwers go between, say, 95-99 mph. He works his fastball between 91-99. You don't know what's coming."

The pivotal, definitive moment arrived in the sixth. With two outs, Seattle DH Edgar Martinez singled to right, then -- with first baseman John Olerud at bat -- stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. There were two strikes on Olerud. The 48,033 fans finally had reason to scream. This was the moment. Sodo Mojo! SODO Mojo! SODO MOJO! Whooooooooooooooosh! Ninety-nine miles per hour, high and hard.

Good night, Mr. Olerud.

"That pitch was tremendous," said Indians third baseman Travis Fryman. "It was a point where Seattle was on the verge of something. Everyone knows we've been looking for an ace for a long time. Bartolo is our ace. He proved it today."

Remarkably, this was in frigid Seattle, where the winds swirled and the temperature -- announced at 55 -- felt more like 35. Colon didn't care. Fryman says the right-hander from the Dominican town of Altamira actually picked up velocity as the game wore on. "And he maintained his control," Fryman said. "That was key."

Not long ago, the Indians wondered whether Jaret Wright and Colon, their top two mound prospects, would turn into Drysdale-Koufax or Zachary-Swan. The jury is still out on Wright, who missed almost the entire year with a bum shoulder. Colon, however, is a different story. One year removed from a dazzling one-hitter at Yankee Stadium, he is finally fulfilling the predictions of baseball's prophets.

Clearly, he was worth the weight.

Related information
Game 1: Colon, Indians blank Mariners 5-0
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