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Arizona Diamondbacks Game Preview, #113: Death Ray vs. the Ageless Wonder

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New York Mets v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Robbie Ray
LHP, 5-11, 4.83
Bartolo Colon
RHP, 10-6, 3.46
Jean Segura - 2B Curtis Granderson - CF
Michael Bourn - CF Ty Kelly - LF
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Neil Walker - 2B
Jake Lamb - 3B Jay Bruce - RF
Brandon Drury - LF Wilmer Flores - 1B
Chris Owings - SS T.J. Rivera - 3B
Socrates Brito - RF Travis d'Arnaud - C
Oscar Hernandez - C Matt Reynolds - SS
Robbie Ray - LHP Bartolo Colon - RHP

One of the best things we’ve watched in the Olympics so far was a quarter-final in the men’s table tennis. We were cheering wildly for Vladimir Samsonov, a 40-year-old from Belarus, a country we could not locate with absolute certainty, as he took part in his sixth Olympics, striving to get past the quarter-finals for the first time ever. This had so much inherent drama, it needed none of NBC’s fluff pieces, and was amplified by Samsonov suffering a leg injury in the second game that required a lengthy medical time-out before he could continue. Games are played to 11, but you have to win by two, and the third was a nailbiter that ended up going 17-all before Samsonov broke through. He eventually prevailed, four games to two: high-fives around SnakePit Towers.

What does that have to do with today’s game? We face Bartolo Colon who, like Samsonov, is playing at the highest level well beyond when he should. Colon is already in the top 10 all-time for wins after age 40, with 57, and shows no signs of slowing down. He recently said he wants to win 19 more, a mark which would put him fourth, ahead of Randy Johnson, Cy Young and Warren Spahn. There are just two other active major-leaguers whose debut pre-dates the Diamondbacks: one (A-Rod) will be calling it quits on Friday, and the other (Big Papa) hangs up his cleats at the end of the month [B-R.com still lists Karim Garcia as “active”, even though he last played in the majors for MLB, because he’s still playing in Mexico]

This puts it into focus. The pitcher he’ll be facing today, Robbie Ray, was 5½ when Colon made his major-league debut in April 1997. A sharper contrast in styles could hardly be imagined. Ray’s average two-seam fastball this year clocks in at 93.1 mph, and he peaked at 97.5 mph. The fastest of the 1,207 two-seam fastballs Colon has thrown in 2016, didn’t even reach 91 mph. Among the 101 qualifying pitchers, Ray’s strikeout rate ranks third (11.31, behind only Jose Fernandez and Max Scherzer). Colon is 95th (5.87). But it’s Colon who has the better record and a significantly better ERA. It can only be roundly applauded, particularly by anyone for whom forty is now but a distant memory.