SEATTLE, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Bartolo Colon, whose erratic performances this year left the Cleveland Indians puzzled, showed why he is still considered one of the most talented righthanders in the game Tuesday as he pitched eight brilliant innings in a stunning 5-0 triumph over the Seattle Mariners.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five Division Series behind a dominant performance by the 26-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Just 14-12 with a 4.09 ERA this season and coming off an outing in which he surrendered six runs in 1 1/3 innings, Colon surrendered just six hits and two walks Tuesday.
Behind a blazing fastball that overmatched all the Mariners with the exception of Japanese rookie sensation Ichiro Suzuki, Colon struck out 10 and allowed just one batter to reach third base. As his been the case throughout his five-year career, Colon got stronger as the game went on.
"I felt good with the fastball and I was pitching in and out," Colon said. "That really worked. I tried to set the tone for the series and when you (pitch) first, you can (pitch) twice."
"Bartolo, what can I say about him? You guys saw him," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "He pitched a pretty good ballgame. I felt like he got some plays--I felt like he threw the ball good from the first inning on. His shoulder started getting tight in the seventh inning but he was still throwing hard all the way through to the eighth. I thought Bartolo pitched a super game today."
Colon's streakiness has plagued him in the postseason as well. In four previous postseason starts, he had a four-hitter against the New York Yankees in 1998 but had surrendered 10 runs and 16 hits in 14 2/3 innings in his other three.
Batterymate Einar Diaz offered his take on Colon's inconsistency.
"He has thrown some good games but he did not win those games," Diaz said. "He was trying to do the same thing. He was hitting the corners. He is trying to do the same thing he was doing all year and it worked for him today."
"Bartolo Colon had an excellent game today and considering his bad start in Kansas City in his last outing he came back today and proved that he is the No. 1 starter and a big-game pitcher," said Indians designated hitter Ellis Burks, who paced the offense with three hits.
Bob Wickman completed the six-hitter by striking out two in a perfect ninth.
The win puts the Mariners, who tied the major league record with 116 victories during the regular season, in a precarious situation. Cleveland seized home-field advantage in the series and with scheduled days off Wednesday and Friday could bring back Colon for Game Four.
"Today, when you look around, there's not too many balls that we hit too well," Seattle second baseman Bret Boone said. "We didn't swing the bats very well. What it all comes down to is that we had a great pitching performance against us today. Sometimes that happens."
"His performance speaks for itself," Seattle manager Lou Piniella. "We didn't do much against him and he was ahead of our hitters, and struck out 10 in eight innings. That's pretty impressive."
Seattle starter Freddy Garcia (0-1) was tagged for four runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out eight in suffering his first loss in four postseason starts.
Garcia struggled down the stretch and has allowed 15 runs in his last 23 1/3 innings.
Suzuki opened the bottom of the first inning with a single but Colon struck out the next two batters before retiring Edgar Martinez on a grounder to third. Garcia worked around a two-out double and Colon struck out two in the second.
After Cleveland left a runner in the third, Suzuki singled with one out in the bottom of the inning but was caught stealing. He was caught 14 times in 70 attempts during the regular season.
Cleveland capitalized on the momentum swing, getting to Garcia in the fourth. Roberto Alomar opened the inning with a double and scored on Juan Gonzalez's bloop single into right field. Jim Thome worked out a walk and Burks reached on an infield single when David Bell failed to field his chopper to third base.
Travis Fryman and Marty Cordova followed with line singles up the middle and Cleveland had a 3-0 lead. Garcia kept the damage to a minimum by striking out the next two batters and retiring Omar Vizquel on a flyout to left.
"Those first four guys nothing was hit very hard," Burks said. "But Travis came up with a big hit and anytime you can get all of the guys toether like that and have a nice little run you are going to have a big inning."
Martinez drew a one-out walk in the fourth but was erased on a double play by John Olerud and Seattle failed to cash in on its best scoring opportunity in the fifth.
Dan Wilson singled with two outs and Bell drew a walk. But Colon retired Suzuki, who hit .449 with runners in scoring position this season, on a soft fly ball to left-center field.
Cleveland tacked on a run in the sixth on an infield single by Einar Diaz that finished Garcia. Norm Charlton got the final two outs of the inning and Seattle finally got a runner to third base in the bottom of the sixth.
Martinez singled with two outs, stole second and took third when Diaz threw the ball into short center field. The 38-year-old Martinez stole just four bases during the season. But Colon again got Olerud, this time striking him out.
Colon struck out two in the seventh and cruised through the eighth.
"Sometimes he'll kind of slow down, instead of keeping a good rhythm," Manuel added. "I forget what inning, the second or third inning, I felt like he kind of got out of rhythm there for a while. But he found it and got right back into it.
"I felt like once he got by the third inning today he was cruising. Like he stayed focused on what he was doing. A lot of times he'll have a lot of pitches early, and today he kept that to a moderate pitch count. I felt that's what carried him through the eight innings."
Ellis Burks' third career postseason home run--a solo shot in the eighth--capped the scoring.
Seattle, facing a must-win situation in Game Two, sends 20-game winner Jamie Moyer to the mound. Cleveland counters with Chuck Finley, another veteran lefthander.
"We would like to have won today so I guess there might be a little more pressure to go out and play a good solid ballgame and not get down 2-0," Olerud said. "So, yeah, I guess there would be a little bit more pressure."
"Moyer has pitched very well for us the second half of the season, and he won 20 ballgames," Piniella added. "And Finley is a veteran pitcher that's been through these type of things before, it should be a good matchup on both sides."