Colon OK against Red Sox's big bats

Bartolo Colon reacts after giving up a solo

Bartolo Colon reacts after giving up a solo home run to David Ortiz in the fourth inning. The Yankees won the game, 3-2. (Aug. 5, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

BOSTON -- On Friday night, he was Bartolo semi-Colon.

For the second straight start, Colon did not see the sixth inning -- but he wasn't awful. For the second straight start, Colon kept the Yankees in the game by giving up only two runs.

But, for the second straight start, Colon made it seem as if he might be running out of gas as he approaches an innings level he hasn't seen since 2005.

Colon lasted only 42/3 innings against the Red Sox in the series opener at Fenway Park. He left trailing 2-0 with the bases loaded and was spared any further ERA damage when Boone Logan struck out Adrian Gonzalez.

It seemed like a quick hook by manager Joe Girardi, but not when you look at Colon's pitch total of 94.

Colon had been a model of efficiency in his stunning comeback season. In April, he needed just 99 pitches to get through eight innings against the White Sox. In May, he used 87 to throw eight shutout innings against the Orioles. And he needed only 103 pitches to throw a complete-game shutout vs. Oakland on May 30.

But Colon's pitch-per-inning totals have been climbing as the season has progressed. Either teams have adjusted to him or he just doesn't have the same crisp stuff he did in the early going.

Colon has thrown 1132/3 innings after averaging 641/3 in the previous four seasons. He's 38 and not in the best of shape. The Yankees expected little to nothing from him when they signed him to a minor-league deal in the offseason. Now they need him to help the team get to the playoffs and then to possibly be their No. 2 starter once there.

Can he hold up? It's a question Girardi admits he is grappling with as he tries to fit six starters into a five-man rotation. One solution could be to use six for a while to help keep Colon and Freddy Garcia fresh.

"It is a little tricky, but it doesn't hurt every once in a while for those guys to have an extra day [of rest]," Girardi said before the game. "Especially at this time of the season. Bart's kind of in uncharted waters when you look at the last five years. Freddy is on pace to blow by what he's thrown at any point in the last five years. We just want to make sure the pitchers are staying strong and they're healthy."

There's no indication Colon is not healthy. But since throwing six scoreless innings (80 pitches) against the Mets on July 2, he has a 5.02 ERA in six starts.

The Red Sox are a tough team to pitch against, of course. They went into Friday with the major-league leader in average, hits and RBIs in Gonzalez and they were the only team to top 600 runs, entering with 602.

So maybe Colon didn't do so poorly after all. He allowed a two-out RBI double to Jacoby Ellsbury in the third inning and a two-out home run to David Ortiz in the fourth. Thanks to Logan, he kept the Yankees in the game and received a no-decision when they went ahead with three runs in the sixth inning.

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