Colon became the first Angels pitcher to reach 20 wins since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in 1974, beating the Texas Rangers 2-1 on Tuesday night.
“I was pretty excited about the whole thing,” he said through a translator. “It’s a very special feeling to do it for one team.”
The Angels overcame three errors by third baseman Maicer Izturis and won their fourth straight, staying 1 1/2 games in front of Oakland in the AL West. The Athletics beat Minnesota 8-3.
Colon held the Rangers, who had won five in a row, scoreless through 6 2-3 innings. The right-hander gave up one unearned run and four hits, struck out four and walked none in seven innings.
“He’s a special pitcher,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “If you look at what he’s accomplished from the middle of last year ‘til now, I don’t think there’s a pitcher who can match what he’s done.”
Colon made some warmup pitches in the eighth before leaving with a cramp in his left leg and a sore spot in his back.
In 1974, Colon was a 1-year-old in the Dominican Republic, yet to discover Ryan, who would become “my favorite pitcher of all time,” he said.
“Me and my dad always talked growing up about Nolan Ryan, so I was very aware of the company I would be keeping,” said Colon, who also won 20 games in 2002 while splitting time between Cleveland and Montreal.
Colon watched Ryan in the 1990s, recalling how he was still throwing more than 95 mph near the end of his career.
“He threw a lot of fastballs like I do,” he said. “I could watch him, I could learn.”
Colon has never met Ryan, joking that he sees him now in commercials.
He is undefeated in his last 11 starts against the Rangers, with whom Ryan ended his career. Colon isn’t shying away from Cy Young talk.
“It would mean a lot, especially to my family, to the Angels’ fans and to my country,” he said.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his 39th save. He gave up a leadoff walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out single to Kevin Mench, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base. But he got Adrian Gonzalez to strike out for the fourth time to preserve Colon’s landmark victory.
Juan Dominguez (3-5) allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings.
Last Thursday, Colon’s bid for a 20th win saw him get hammered in an 8-6 loss to Detroit that snapped his career-high eight-game winning streak.
“Against Detroit, I don’t know if he was a little psyched up and he was maybe overthrowing a little bit,” Scioscia said. “Tonight, he was much more in tune early in the game and his pitches were very, very crisp.”
Colon’s teammates backed him with solid defense. After Gary Matthews Jr. singled to open the sixth, shortstop Orlando Cabrera made a diving stop on Gerald Laird, got up and fired to second to start a double play before Colon retired David Dellucci.
Colon nearly pitched out of trouble in the seventh. He gave up a leadoff double to Michael Young, and Teixeira reached on a fielding error by Izturis.
“We did have some opportunities because of the errors,” Teixeira said. “We did capitalize on one of them, but their pitching was just too good. Colon is one of the best pitchers in the league and he showed that again against us.”
“He’s clearly one of the best in the league and probably the front-runner for the Cy Young right now,” Young said. “He’s probably a little banged up out there, too, so that goes to show you that he’s a competitor and he’s trying to help his team win a ballgame.”
Izturis committed his third error in the eighth, one that allowed Texas to put runners on second and third. But Kelvim Escobar got Young to hit an inning-ending line drive to Izturis, who caught it, changing the boos to cheers.
Juan Rivera hit his career-high 13th homer with two outs in the second to give the Angels a 1-0 lead.
Los Angeles had a run taken away in the first when Cabrera was called for interference at second base in trying to break up a double-play relay. Scioscia argued with the second and third base umpires to no avail.
Angels LF Garret Anderson left the game in the ninth because of a stiff back. … Izturis’ three errors were the most in a game by an Angels’ player since Gary DiSarcina had three on Aug. 21, 1999, against Detroit. … Colon tied Bill Singer (1973), Andy Messersmith (’71) and Cy Young winner Dean Chance (’64) for fourth on the Angels’ season victories list. Ryan and Clyde Wright (1970) lead the list with 22 wins. Ryan won 21 in ’73. … Colon is the only major league pitcher to have won at least 14 games in each of the past eight seasons starting in 1998. … Guerrero has hit safely in all 32 games against Texas, tying the record by a player against one team set by Paul Molitor against the Chicago White Sox from 1993-96. … Young extended his AL-leading hitting streak to 16 games with a double in the seventh.