If it felt a little bit like the circus was in town, that’s OK with the Twins. They were entertained enough to hold it over for another show.
Bartolo Colon, the oldest starting pitcher in Twins history and the object of national curiosity, pitched three shutout innings Tuesday, which probably exceeded his new team’s expectations. He cracked in the fourth, though, giving up a run, and crumbled in the fifth, surrendering three more on increasingly hard-hit balls, and eventually absorbed his first loss with his 10th major league team, a 6-3 defeat to the Yankees.
“I feel good. The first four innings were good,” the 44-year-old Colon said through an interpreter after allowing four runs on eight hits over four innings, in his first big-league start since June 28 with the Braves. “The fifth inning, I couldn’t get out of it, but I felt good about it.”
The Twins were mostly encouraged, too; for four innings, Colon displayed an ability to change speeds with a fastball that ranged from 84-89 mph, and his pitches usually kept hitters off balance.
“His movement is good, and it’s rather late for a two-seamer — it kind of has that late dart to it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “And it played. They had some pretty funny swings the first couple times around, trying to figure out the best approach. … I thought he got in on the guys he was supposed to get in on, and backdoored the guys he was supposed to. It could have turned out better, that’s for sure.”
The Twins will give him a chance to do better, too.
“At this moment, I fully expect him to start next Monday” in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, Molitor said.
Colon, picked up last week by the Twins after Atlanta released him and his 8.14 ERA, was undone by a couple of soft infield hits in the fourth inning, which produced a run when Chase Headley followed with a solid single to center. Then things snowballed on him in the fifth, when he lost command of his fastball, the pitch he threw about 90 percent of the time.
“They got on top of me, started hitting me hard,” Colon said. “When you don’t put the pitches where they’re supposed to be, they hit you hard.”
Ronald Torreyes led off with a single, Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez followed with sharply hit doubles, and Molitor came to get a pitcher he once faced himself, two decades ago.
“We were trying to give him a chance there,” Molitor said. “He had handled Sanchez pretty well his first couple of at-bats, but he got down on a sinker and hooked it into the corner.”
The inning turned into a game-deciding outburst when Aaron Judge singled home Sanchez off Ryan Pressly, and Didi Gregorius hit a long home run into the right-center seats. But Colon — who was warmly welcomed by the 33,114 fans in the stands before the game, and received a rousing ovation as he left (despite actually increasing his season ERA from 8.14 to 8.19) — was pleased with the debut.
“I feel happy,” he said. “As far as command, hopefully it’s better [next Monday] than it was [Tuesday], and hopefully I can do a better job.”
The Twins need to do a better job of cashing in their opportunities, after going 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position. Brian Dozier tripled home a run, Miguel Sano scorched a pitch 420 feet into the bullpens for another, and the Yankees walked in a run. But that’s all the offense the Twins could provide their new teammate.