NEW YORK — One by one, the hard-throwing young starters on the Mets’ pitching staff got hurt. Bartolo Colon, like Ol’ Man River, keeps on rollin’ along.
The 43-year-old limited the Twins to three singles in seven innings, Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera hit consecutive home runs off rookie Jose Berrios in the third, and New York beat Minnesota 3-0 Friday night in the opener of the Mets’ final homestand this season.
“If we wouldn’t have had him in our rotation, I’m not sure where we would be right now,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Matt Harvey hasn’t pitched since early July, and Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all have been slowed by injuries. Colon (14-7) made his team-high 30th start and lowered his ERA to 3.14.
Matched against a pitcher nearly half his age, Colon also helped himself with his glove — starting an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play in the first and covering first base on a grounder to the right side in the seventh. He also picked off a runner in winning for the fourth time in five decisions.
The burly, 285-pound pitcher smiled when asked about his quick move to the third base side of the mound on Jorge Polanco’s comebacker, which started the double play.
“That’s a routine play. I always do that,” Colon said through a translator.
New York opened a two-game lead over St. Louis for the second NL wild card and is one game behind San Francisco.
“Hopefully he continues to pitch like that because we’re going to need him,” Reyes said.
Colon, whose fastball averages just over 90 mph, was a free agent when he re-signed in December. New York expected Zack Wheeler to return in midseason and for Colon to shift to the bullpen, a role he excelled in last October.
“We thought it was a good signing knowing that he would give us innings early,” Collins said. “And here he is right in the pennant stretch in late September still carrying the staff.”
Colon allowed soft singles in the third to Berrios and Brian Dozier, who extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a slow bouncer to third, then retired Polanco on a flyout to escape bases-loaded trouble. Polanco singled in the sixth.
“He doesn’t miss spots,” Dozier said. “I was telling some of these young guys just to kind of watch him tonight.”
Addison Reed pitched the eighth and Jeurys Familia worked around a pair of walks to complete the three-hitter, retiring pinch-hitter Kennys Vargas on a flyout to deep left for his 49th save in 53 chances.
The 22-year-old Berrios (2-7), who was 2 when Colon made his big league debut in April 1997, allowed two runs and four hits in four innings. He was impressed by Colon.
“To be able to paint the corners like that is awesome,” Berrios said through a translator.
Reyes homered over the right-field wall on a curveball and, three pitches later, Cabrera sent a fastball into the right-field second deck. Yoenis Cespedes added an RBI single in the seventh off Pat Light.
After the Twins, the Mets host the Atlanta Braves and Phillies before finishing with a six-game trip to Miami and Philadelphia.
“All we’ve got to continue to do is not worry about anything else except our business of trying to win a game each and every night,” Collins said.
New York is 14-2 after off days. The Mets have one remaining, on Sept. 29.
Mets reliever Jerry Blevins joined Cabrera and Reyes with dyed blond hair.
Cespedes tried for a nonchalant basket catch on Max Kepler’s soft leadoff fly to left in the fourth only to have the ball tick off the webbing of his glove for an error. Colon then picked off Kepler, originally ruled safe by first base umpire Brian Gorman but called out on video review.
Travis d’Arnaud is hitting .109 (5 for 46) with runners in scoring position. … Jay Bruce was 0 for 3 and booed. He is hitting .200 in September (8 for 40). … Curtis Granderson was 0 for 3 and is in a 1-for-22 slide.
Mets: Cabrera left after eight innings because of a right leg cramp but expects to play Saturday. … deGrom (right forearm soreness) is scheduled to start Sunday and will be limited to 75 pitches in his first appearance since Sept. 1. … 1B Lucas Duda (stress fracture in lower back) is to be activated from the DL on Saturday; he last played on May 20. … Matz (shoulder tightness) is to throw a bullpen Saturday; he has not pitched since Aug. 14. … OF Juan Lagares (surgery to repair torn ligament in left thumb) was activated Friday. He has not played since July 28 and will be limited to a defensive-replacement role. … INF Wilmer Flores, out since a home-plate collision Sept. 10, said he had an injection of painkiller in his right wrist Thursday and could return in a few days.
RHP Seth Lugo (4-2) is to start for the Mets on Saturday, and RHP Ervin Santana (7-10) for the Twins.