In the spring of 1997, when Dave Roberts raced to the major leagues for the first time, he shared space on the Cleveland Indians with a 26-year-old pitcher named Bartolo Colon. Roberts was a year older. He would retire in 2008. Colon kept going. He grew wider by the year, but his career never seemed to end.
As Roberts prepared to manage the Dodgers against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday evening, he stared at an opposing lineup that included Colon. The outcome felt improbable. It also afforded Roberts a chance to brag about his own career: He had hit .455 against Colon in their meetings over the years.
“I can get on these guys if they don’t get any hits,” Roberts said. “Because I had to face him, and got hits off him, when he was a whole lot better.”
After a 12-5 victory, Roberts could rest easy. There was no need to razz his players. He was more likely to offer sympathy for his former teammate, as the Dodgers demolished Colon. Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and Yasiel Puig all delivered home runs. Colon could not finish the fourth inning.
With rookie Caleb Ferguson making his second start, the Dodgers (34-32) collected their fourth victory in five games. Ferguson lasted four innings before Roberts turned the game over to the bullpen. By then, the team led by eight runs. Rookie reliever Daniel Corcino finished the game with a three-inning save.
The power surge was nothing new. The Dodgers have homered 29 times in 10 games this month. It is not a coincidence that they are 8-2 in June.
Pederson and Puig have come alive after slow starts. Muncy leads the team with 13 homers. Their emergence has offset the season-ending injury of Corey Seager and the relative slumber of Cody Bellinger. And Bellinger has started to awaken, with four homers this month.
“We have a really deep lineup,” Bellinger said. “I wouldn’t want to face us.”
A distance of 24 years separated Colon (45) and Ferguson (21). When Colon made his big league debut in April 1997, Ferguson was 9 months old. Colon has pitched for 11 major league franchises. Ferguson was appearing in his 11th game above class-A baseball. Colon is a former Montreal Expo. Ferguson spent the entirety of 2017 as a Rancho Cucamonga Quake.
On the mound, Colon is not practiced in the art of deception. He throws almost exclusively fastballs, choosing them more than 80% of the time.
He relies upon subtle movement, cutting the baseball or sinking it, to prevent getting trounced. He could not avoid that fate Tuesday.
The presence of Colon — and the National League rules — allowed Ferguson to complete the second inning. The Rangers loaded the bases, but Ferguson snuffed out the threat when Colon tapped a grounder back to the mound for the third out.
As a reward for Ferguson’s escape, the lineup handed him a three-run lead in the bottom of the inning. After a walk by Bellinger, Puig pounded an 85-mph fastball from Colon off the left-field wall for a run-scoring double.
Pederson binged on power during the last trip, with five homers in six games. He added another one over the weekend. His eighth of the season came courtesy of Colon’s belt-high, 89-mph fastball. Pederson hammered the pitch for a two-run shot.
“You just try to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it,” Pederson said.
Texas taxed Ferguson for two runs in the third. The Rangers cobbled together three singles, including an RBI knock by Adrian Beltre that Justin Turner could not sweep into his glove at third base. A run-scoring groundout by outfielder Joey Gallo cut the lead to one.
Muncy doubled the advantage in the bottom of the inning. He clubbed another Colon fastball a few rows deep in the right-field bleachers. He was asked after the game if Colon was the oldest pitcher he had ever taken deep. “Uh, yeah,” he said. “Unless you count my dad in batting practice or something.”
Roberts chose to remove Ferguson after four innings. The rookie still lasted longer than his veteran counterpart. The Dodgers pummeled Colon again in the fourth and forced him from the game with a seven-run inning.
Puig keyed the barrage. A leadoff single by Yasmani Grandal brought him to the plate. Colon tried something different: He threw a changeup. Puig bashed a two-run shot and sprinted around the bases.
The rout was on. Pederson doubled. Chris Taylor brought him home with a single. Colon exited the game. The evening did not improve for Texas.
The Rangers’ defense unraveled in the rest of the inning. Muncy hit a single off reliever Alex Claudio. Shortstop Jurickson Profar made an error on a throw to first that allowed a run to score. Bellinger hit a grounder that squibbed past Beltre at third base for an RBI double. In his second at-bat of the inning, Grandal hit a two-run single to finish the seven-run flurry.