This was a countdown game Wednesday as New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon, venerable but not vulnerable at age 41, rolled easily through his afternoon at Safeco Field.
Was this the day the Mariners, with their oft-challenged lineup, would fail to get on base?
Turns out, it wasn’t — although Colon retired the first 20 batters before Robinson Cano lined a two-out single to left field in the seventh inning that dropped several feet in front of Eric Young Jr.
After the Mariners avoided that indignity, they knocked out Colon in eighth inning but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 3-2 loss to the Mets in front of a crowd of 36,224.
Never miss a local story.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about (the no-hitter),” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It was definitely a possibility because (Colon) had a real good sinker going, and he was spotting that fastball in.”
It didn’t happen, but this was no surprise — was it? Colon (9-8) always seems magnificent at Safeco, where he is now 13-1 with a 2.12 ERA in 15 career starts over his 17-year career.
“You’re a little disappointed when they get a hit,” Colon said through an interpreter, “but that’s what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to get a hit and break up the no-hitter.”
Colon’s final line showed two runs and three hits in 71/3 innings.
“He was throwing his pitches,” Cano said, “and he was making us chase them. Especially me in my first two at-bats. This guy won a Cy Young in the past (2005). He knows how to pitch.”
Even so, the Mariners made it interesting in the eighth after Corey Hart led off with a walk and moved to second on Dustin Ackley’s single through the right side.
Brad Miller followed with a drive that hit high off the right-field wall. A few more inches, and the game is tied. Instead, Miller settled for an RBI double.
“I was thinking, ‘Get up,’ ” Miller said, “but I didn’t think it was going to be high enough. Man, that would have been sweet.”
It was, instead, merely sweet enough to finish Colon.
When the Mets brought in Jeurys Familia, the Mariners countered by sending Willie Bloomquist to bat for Jesus Sucre.
Bloomquist’s soft grounder up the middle resulted, initially, in an RBI single, but the Mets challenged, and the call was overturned. Bloomquist was out at first.
Ackley still scored, but the tying run, Miller, was now at third with two outs — instead of runners at first and third with one out. Familia held the lead by striking out Endy Chavez.
Jenrry Mejia secured Colon’s victory by working around singles by Cano and Hart in a scoreless ninth.
While Colon resurrected his past, the Mariners took a possible look at their future by recalling right-hander Taijuan Walker from Triple-A Tacoma prior to the game.
Walker flashed the potential of a prized prospect, but also the gap remaining to realize it. He was optioned back to Tacoma afterward; a corresponding move will be made prior to Thursday’s game against Baltimore.
“He was OK,” McClendon said. “Command of the fastball has got to get better, and he will get better. This young man is 21 years old. Most kids 21 are still in college. He’s going to be a pretty good pitcher at this level.”
Walker (1-2) worked in the mid-90s and gave up two runs and two hits in five-plus innings. But he also walked six while striking out five and threw just 51 of 94 pitches for strikes.
“I definitely didn’t like the walks,” Walker said, “but it was a step in the right direction. Something to build off. A lot more positives than negatives.
“The fastball command was better. Later in the game, it wasn’t there, but I battled and kept the team in it as much as I could.”
The lack of command produced a scary moment when Walker’s fastball hit Ruben Tejada’s helmet in the fifth inning. Tejada left the game under his own power.
“I’ve never hit anyone in the head before,” Walker said. “And with a fastball, it was definitely scary. I heard he was OK. So thank goodness.”
The Mets finished with just four hits — one less than the Mariners, actually — but scored single runs in the first and sixth innings against Walker and in the seventh against Dominic Leone.
That was enough, just barely, for the Mets to win their first-ever series against Mariners. The Mariners also lost for the ninth time in 14 games, and their wild-card lead continues to dwindle.
“There’s a lot of games left,” Cano said. “The last thing we can do is hang our heads and start worrying about it. We’ve just got to turn the page and just move on.”