Hank Aaron speaks at Turner Field prior to the Braves' game Tuesday against the Mets. (Reuters)
ATLANTA -- On the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron's historic 715th home run, it was New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon who flipped the calendar back.
Colon, who turns 41 in May, did not allow a runner past second base over seven innings as the Mets spoiled the Atlanta Braves' home opener and the Aaron festivities with a 4-0 victory Tuesday night before an announced sellout crowd of 47,144 at Turner Field.
"Talk about moving the ball around the strike zone, he was really, really good tonight," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He pitched in, he pitched out. He pitched down, he pitched up. He gave them a different look no matter what he was throwing."
Colon allowed six hits, walked none and struck out five, throwing 70 of his 101 pitches for strikes while improving to 1-1 in his first season with the Mets after signing a two-year, $20 million deal as a free agent.
"They know I throw a lot of strikes, so they swing a lot and that helps me," Colon said.
Atlanta gave the Mets a late scare, though. The Braves loaded the bases against Jose Valverde in the ninth on two hits and the reliever's throwing error, but right fielder Jason Heyward flew out to the warning track in center field to end the game.
"It was an exciting ninth inning, but we won it," Collins said.
"I knew I just missed it," Heyward said. "Good at-bat. I'd like to be in that spot every time."
It was the fourth victory in as many starts for Colon against the Braves, but the previous three had come in 2002 when the native of the Dominican Republic was pitching for the old Montreal Expos during his only previous National League stint.
Colon was 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA for Oakland last season and has a 190-129 career record over 17 seasons with eight teams.
"When you face a tough team like Atlanta, you have to prepare very well mentally," Colon said. "I did that."
Aaron Harang, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his first start for the Braves while winning 1-0 at Milwaukee last Wednesday, was almost as good against the Mets as he allowed just two hits in six innings.
The only run off Harang this season came without the benefit of a hit in the third as the 34-year-old right-hander walked two and bounced a wild pitch past catcher Evan Gattis.
Harang, who finished last season with the Mets, struck out nine, including five in a row from the fourth through five innings, and walked four before leaving after 110 pitches.
"I don't think you can ask for much more than that," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Harang's two outings.
The Mets gave Colon a cushion in the seventh. Rookie catcher Travis d'Arnaud, who had been 0-for-16 before singling in the fourth inning, led off with a double, and shortstop Ruben Tejada and left fielder Eric Young Jr. followed with run-scoring singles.
Tejada had another RBI single in the eighth inning after Collins successfully challenged an out call at first base on center fielder Juan Lagares. Collins is 2-0 on challenges this season, both plays involving Lagares.
Young and Tejada each had two hits and a walk, and Young had two of the Mets' three stolen bases.
The Braves wore throwback uniforms in honor of Aaron, whose record of 755 homers over 23 seasons was eventually bettered by Barry Bonds.
Al Downing, who gave up Aaron's 715th homer while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was on hand as part of the anniversary, as well as former Braves teammates Phil Niekro, Dusty Baker and Ralph Garr.
The 80-year-old Aaron, who broke a hip in January and uses a walker, followed commissioner Bud Selig to the microphone and concluded the half-hour ceremony by thanking Braves fans for their long support.
"You were here cheering for me then and you're here again now," Aaron said. "Thank you for being in my corner all these years."
NOTES: RHP Bobby Parnell, the Mets' closer, had Tommy John surgery on Tuesday in New York to replace the partially torn MCL in his elbow and will be sidelined until next season. ... RHP Cory Gearrin of the Braves is headed to Tommy John surgery. The reliever has a torn MCL, and will join RHP Kris Medlen and RHP Brandon Beachy in missing the season. ... Braves LHP Luis Avilan had to leave after facing two batters in seventh inning with a left hamstring cramp. ...C Evan Gattis returned to the Braves lineup after sitting out the weekend series in Washington with flu-like symptoms. ... RHP Ervin Santana, signed midway in spring training as a free agent after Medlen and Beachy went down, will make his Braves debut Wednesday night in the middle game of the series. ... RHP Zack Wheeler will start for the Mets after going 3-0 against the Braves as a rookie last year.