Monday night provided the surest sign yet that Bartolo Colon has made people believe in his comeback.
But he lost, fair observer, and didn't pitch very well, so how could that be a sign of his comeback? It was stunning to see him totally come off the rails in the sixth inning against the Blue Jays, something that you would not have said when he took the mound for his first start of the season.
Make no mistake about it either, this was a complete and total meltdown. Colon has thrived this season because he throws a ton of strikes and because he generates a lot of ground balls when batters put the ball into play.
He did neither of those things in the fateful sixth inning. He gave up a double to start the inning, walked a batter on four pitches with the bases loaded and then gave up a three-run double to send the visitors on their way to a comfortable 7-3 victory.
Colon did get one ground ball in the inning when he coaxed a ball to the left side from Aaron Hill with one out and the bases loaded, but the ball had eyes and sneaked through the infield. That broke a 1-1 tie and highlighted a curious strategical move from a man who has started specializing in them.
After the double to start the inning, the Yankees made the wise choice to intentionally walk Jose Bautista instead of risking his second home run of the night. The Blue Jays, taking a page from Girardi's big binder of awful ideas, gave away the first out of the inning with a sacrifice bunt to bring Juan Rivera to the plate with runners on second and third.
Rivera came into the game hitting .225 and slugging .331, so, naturally, Girardi deemed him too much of a threat for Colon to face in that spot. Hill's hit came after the intentional walk and what could have been a one-run inning turned into a crooked number just like that.
The most galling thing about it is that it is the exact opposite of the way Girardi manages when he uses the bunt to try for one-run innings on offense instead of setting up big innings by letting his talented players swing the bat. The bunting is maddening, but you'd at least hope for some consistency.
It might seem silly to focus on Girardi when Colon had the kind of inning that no manager could have stopped with any bit of strategy.
Pitchers have bad innings, that's an unavoidable part of baseball, but managers don't need to make things harder for their teams with the frequency that Girardi has this season.