NEW YORK — Bartolo Colon is finally missing a few spots — and beginning to act his age.
Matt Adams hit a long three-run homer, Jason Heyward also connected and the St. Louis Cardinals enjoyed their second consecutive offensive outburst, roughing up Colon in a 9-0 rout of the New York Mets on Wednesday night.
"I don't think I've ever seen him struggle so much with the command side," manager Terry Collins said.
Coupled with Washington's victory over the New York Yankees, the Mets' loss dropped them out of first place in the NL East for the first time since April 14.
Pitching four days before his 42nd birthday and trying again to become baseball's first seven-game winner, Colon (6-3) was hit hard right from the start and even walked two batters — one more than he had all season.
The right-hander was charged with nine runs, eight earned, and 11 hits over 4 1-3 innings. He had gone a team-record seven straight starts without issuing a free pass following a walk to Ryan Zimmerman on opening day in Washington.
But despite his second straight poor outing, the happy-go-lucky Colon kept his sense of humor.
"Got my behind whipped," he said through a translator. "Now I have to change the approach and throw more balls than strikes."
Following a 10-2 victory Tuesday night, St. Louis improved the top mark in the majors to 27-13.
Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong both had three hits to back Carlos Martinez (4-2), who pitched 6 1-3 innings of four-hit ball. Two relievers finished a four-hitter for the Cardinals, who have outhit the Mets 29-9 over the last two games.
New York has scored three runs or fewer in 16 of the past 22 games.
"We're not hitting the ball hard. We're not even barreling up some balls," Collins said. "I don't know what the reason is. Other teams don't have problems hitting suckers out of this ballpark."
Colon caught a break in the first when Jhonny Peralta's two-out drive to center bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double, scoring one run but stopping another runner at third.
His good fortune ran out in the fourth — moments after Colon reached third during a rare jaunt around the bases.
It was the first free pass issued by Colon in 48 2-3 innings, breaking the previous franchise record of 47 2-3 innings by Bret Saberhagen in 1994.
Holliday followed with a run-scoring single, and Adams made it 7-0 when he launched a shot that banged off a potato chip advertisement above the Mets' bullpen in right-center.
"It's a really aggressive team that was really aggressive swinging early in the count," Colon said. "I'm going to continue to pitch the same way. Nothing's going to change. And it's not going to be the last bad outing I'm going to have."
Collins thought Colon's trip around the bases might have affected him the following inning, but the beefy pitcher said that didn't bother him at all.
"It was just a bad inning after that," he said.
Grichuk had an RBI double and Wong added a run-scoring single in the fifth after a leadoff walk to Heyward.
"We've got to get some innings out of our starters. Our bullpen is starting to get tired and when that happens, things can get ugly," Collins said.
THE ONE AND ONLY
Colon fell to 4-1 in seven starts against the Cardinals. That leaves the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team he's faced only once, as the only club yet to hand him a loss.
"He's an aggressive pitcher. He likes to come right after us, so we all kind of collectively, we just said we were going to be aggressive at him, too," Wong said.
Mets: RHP Dillon Gee (groin strain) is scheduled to make another rehab start Thursday for Class A St. Lucie at Dunedin. If he's ready to come off the DL after that, the Mets could have a decision to make about whether Gee goes back into the rotation and who might come out.
Cardinals: In the four-game series finale Thursday afternoon, Jaime Garcia comes off the DL to make his first major league start since June 20. The 28-year-old lefty had a setback in spring training from thoracic outlet surgery, performed in July 2014 to alleviate numbness and tingling in his pitching arm and hand.
Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (4-4) is 9-1 with a 1.32 ERA in his past 11 starts at home, dating to last July. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year was 3 for 3 at the plate in his most recent outing, including two hits in a 10-run inning against Milwaukee.
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