NEW YORK -- It's been nearly two decades since Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, then a roving Minor League hitting instructor for the Rockies, first crossed paths with an up-and-coming 23-year-old pitcher named Bartolo Colon. Colon was the Indians' top prospect -- No. 15 in the game, according to Baseball America -- and carved up Double-A Eastern League batters while pitching for Canton-Akron in 1996. The New Haven Ravens, Colorado's affiliate, were one of Colon's victims.
"The kid just reared back and brought it," Hurdle said. "He still does."
It doesn't come as a complete surprise to Hurdle, then, that a 41-year-old Colon is pitching the way he is now. The right-hander stymied the Pirates for 7 1/3 scoreless innings of five-hit ball Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field to lead the Mets to a 5-0 win.
Colon located a fastball that sat in the high-80s while striking out nine, including Ike Davis in the sixth inning for the 2,000th of his career, to hand Pittsburgh its third series loss in five tries over the last two weeks. It's also the Pirates' third loss in their last four contests.
"He pitched as we expected him to pitch," Hurdle said. "He's been around as long as he has for a reason. It's because he's good at what he does, he's able to repeat pitches in spots, goes through some sequences where he tries to get you off the fastball, but you know he's coming back to it. You've got to hit pitches when they're there to hit. We didn't do that."
Added Davis: "Sometimes it moves 18 inches, sometimes it's straight, sometimes it moves six, sometimes it goes down a little bit. He keeps [hitters] off balance a little bit and misses barrels."
Sloppy defense, command issues on the mound and a continued inability to hit with runners on did in the Pirates. An 0-for-7 effort with men in scoring position makes them 1-for-14 the last two games, both losses. The Bucs left eight runners stranded Wednesday and 32 during the three-game series.
The Pirates' last major scoring threat came in the eighth inning, when back-to-back singles from Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen were finally enough for Mets manager Terry Collins to pull Colon after 121 pitches. But on the first pitch Davis saw from reliever Jeurys Familia, he grounded into an inning-ending double play, solidifying Colon's scoreless outing.
"There's no real pitch count with him," Collins said. "Bartolo's just a different animal. He just makes his pitches."
Pittsburgh initially fell behind in the second following Charlie Morton's walk to Lucas Duda, one of four on the day for the right-handed starter. Duda moved to second on a wild pitch, and -- after getting to third on a groundout -- came home on another wild pitch.
The Mets' second run was arguably even uglier. Daniel Murphy sent a grounder to Pedro Alvarez at third, but after Alvarez airmailed it to first and shortstop Jordy Mercer missed a catch on an ensuing play at second, Murphy ended up on third.
Hurdle's decision on the next at-bat, when David Wright came to the plate, was indicative of how things have been going for Pittsburgh lately. Down by just one run in the third inning, Hurdle brought the infielders in to give them a chance to cut off the run at home. It didn't matter when Wright lined a single over their heads into left field.
Morton allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings, which matched the shortest start of his season. Wright's sixth-inning homer to left-center was the first long ball Morton yielded in 37 innings this month, and it came on what Morton called a "flat" sinker.
"Some of my pitches flattened out today, and that was one of them," Morton said. "If you can't repeat [your delivery], it leads to all sorts of problems."
The inconsistent delivery -- which leads to command and, in turn, a pitcher's rhythm coming and going -- also concerned Hurdle.
"He gets ultra-competitive," Hurdle said. "I guess the term would be he overthrows a little bit."
The Pirates' search for answers takes them west to Los Angeles, then San Diego before returning home. Following a momentum-crushing series that drops his team back to .500 in May, Hurdle knows the fixes need to come in multiple areas.
"If you don't play well here, you don't win," Hurdle said. "It's not one thing. We got shut out today as well. We have work to do. Flat out, we have work to do. We have to play better."
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.