While the NL East-leading New York Mets are constantly under pressure to explain their decision to limit Matt Harvey's innings ahead of the postseason, Bartolo Colon is making a strong case for a spot in the playoff rotation.
Colon looks to extend the longest shutout streak of his career as the Mets try to continue their hot stretch on the road against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.
New York (78-61) has built a season-high seven-game lead on Washington in the division. That sizable advantage should help reduce the pressure on the club after it decided to limit Harvey to 180 to 185 innings during the regular season.
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There's no such concern for Colon (13-11, 4.18 ERA), whose 170 innings rank second on the team to Harvey's 171 2-3.
Colon has also been outstanding of late, going 3-0 and tossing 25 consecutive scoreless innings over his last four games - three starts. He went 1-4 with a 6.08 ERA in his previous seven starts.
The 42-year-old right-hander became the oldest Mets pitcher to throw a shutout Saturday, allowing nine hits in a 7-0 win at Miami.
"I've been working hard in the bullpen with the pitching coach, mainly on my secondary pitches, and that's made by fastball better," said Colon through a translator.
He could eventually land a spot in New York's postseason rotation after he was seemingly headed for a role in the bullpen.
Colon is 7-2 with a 2.53 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves (56-84), winning all four in Atlanta with a 1.29 ERA. He's won all three matchups overall this year behind a 3.79 ERA.
The Mets, though, are 1-5 at Turner Field this season after getting swept in a three-game series from June 19-21.
They enter this four-game set as winners of 11 of 13 on the road after completing a huge three-game sweep of the Nationals with Wednesday's 5-3 victory, their third consecutive comeback win in the series.
Yoenis Cespedes continued his torrid stretch with a two-run homer. He's hitting .432 with six homers and 13 RBIs in the last eight games, giving him a .312 average with 14 homers and 36 RBIs in 36 games since being acquired from Detroit at the July 31 trade deadline.
''The whole team is clicking, ready to fight until the last out,'' Cespedes said through a translator. ''We know we're going to come back.''
The Braves are trying to snap an eight-game home skid, their longest since losing the first nine of 1988 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
They open this 10-game homestand after taking two of three in Philadelphia, matching their win total from the previous 22 contests.
Atlanta collected a season-high 18 hits in Wednesday's 8-1 victory, and will now try to win consecutive games for the first time since a three-game streak from Aug. 6-8.
Giving the ball to Shelby Miller (5-13, 2.81), however, poses a problem. The right-hander is 0-12 with a 3.46 ERA over his last 20 starts, a run of futility that is the longest by a Brave since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.
He's also compiled a 5.18 ERA during a four-start losing streak, surrendering seven runs in 4 1-3 innings of Saturday's 8-5 defeat at Washington.
Miller is 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three starts against the Mets.