PHOENIX — A red t-shirt with “USA” in blue lettering hung from Josh Collmenter’s locker Friday night to honor the opening of the Olympic Games. The Diamondbacks pitcher also walked to the plate twice Friday with the Olympic theme playing.
Collmenter’s performance in the D-backs’ 11-5 win over the Mets was hardly medal worthy, but his effort to keep his team in a game that could have spiraled out of control was considered golden in the eyes of his teammates.
“A lot of guys would have lost their composure there,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “The guy’s got ice in his veins. He’s very calm and on task at all times regardless of the circumstances.”
Making his second start since returning to the rotation, Collmenter spotted the Mets two runs in the second only to take the mound again in the third with a 6-2 lead following a huge home half of the inning for the D-backs. But three batters into the inning, the Mets were suddenly behind by just a run thanks to David Wright’s three-run homer.
“A couple bloops and a blast and it’s back to a one-run game,” Collmenter said. “I knew from there on I had to execute and make pitches to keep us in the game.”
That’s exactly what Collmenter did, and it earned him plenty of praise in the clubhouse as the D-backs avoided a third straight loss. The offense certainly did its job, adding runs in the fourth and fifth before pulling away with three in the seventh, but Collmenter kept the Mets at bay and impressed with his composure.
After Wright’s home run, Collmenter allowed just a hit and a walk the rest of the way, with only one base runner getting past first. He finished his night — one that looked like it could end early –with four straight strikeouts for a final line of six innings pitched, seven hits, five earned runs, five strikeouts and a walk.
“‘Colly’ settled down nice,” D-backs shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. “It looked like it was going to be one of those nights … but Josh was able to stop the bleeding.”
Though Collmenter kept a capable (albeit scuffling) offense in check after some early struggles, it was his first off night in quite a while. The five runs allowed equaled his total over his past 36 1/3 innings pitched, some of which came as a reliever and some as a starter.
And while teammates were happy to heap praise on Collmenter for his determination, he was quick to deflect it on a night that likely would have ended with a much different tone had the D-backs offense not been so potent.
“It was one of those nights that the offense bailed us out,” Collmenter said. “They did a great job covering for a little lack of pitching.”
Collmenter was part of that effort as well, collecting his first hit of the season in the big second inning. His bases-loaded single plated a run before Bloomquist singled and reached third on a throwing error by Mets starter Jonathan Niese that allowed three runs to score.
“Sometimes, if you close your eyes and swing hard enough, it will find a hole,” Collmenter joked.
Collmenter moved to 3-2 with the win — a win he wouldn’t get in most starts featuring five runs allowed. It was the kind of break he and the D-backs needed as they try to keep pace in the NL West race.
The D-backs have teetered around the .500 mark and haven’t established the winning identity many expected when picking them to win the NL West for the second straight year. But with six wins in their last eight games and their divisional deficit down to 5 1/2 games, the team’s confidence is growing.
“I know we’re contenders,” center fielder Chris Young said. “There’s no question about it. By no means when we win a game is it a fluke or anything. We have a great team.
“Yeah, we’ve gone through some ups and downs, but when it comes down to it, we can compete with anybody out there.”