Yesterday, opening day, the optimists ruled. The naysayers out there already have their rebuttals. “You had Santana pitching, you should have won. Now lets see what you’ve got”.
Perhaps they are right. Certainly 2009, nor this most recent spring training has given even the most loyal Mets fans some ill conceived notions that this team will win the NL East going away in a wire to wire race.
Plus the fact, regardless if you win or lose on opening day, whether it’s a blow out like today’s victory over the Florida Marlins or it’s a walk off hit, you are always reminded that this is a 162 game season and there’s still plenty of games to be played.
Fortunately the Mets have a pretty solid major league leading winning percentage on opening day despite losing the opener for the first eight seasons. They are 32-9 since then and although you would like to believe that would carry through the 162 game schedule, more often than not, it hasn’t happened that way for the Mets.
The obvious pluses, those the optimists expected to see where apparent from the very first inning. Johan Santana put the Marlins down in order. In fact he got the first seven batters out before giving up his first hit. (No no-hitter again!)
You just had to know that David Wright has been counting down the days since last October to this day simply tired of hearing all the negativity about how he’s lost his power, how his strike outs had increased, how he lunged at bad pitches and how he just couldn’t keep up with a good fastball. The smile that he wore as he rounded the bases after lofting one right down the right field line to put the Mets out in front to an early 2-0 lead must have his legions of fans in happy tears.
Other expected positives the optimists had believed would happen simply did. Jason Bey, Gary Matthews Jr, and Rod Barajas each collected two hits and Bay’s triple inspired us all to think anxiously for the anticipated return of Jose Reyes who is a triples machine.
Despite leaving 13 runners on base, the Mets did score seven runs on nine hits which means they hit in the clutch today something you couldn’t find even with a telescope last year.
I loved the play of Gary Matthews Jr in centerfield today as he seem to be roaming the outfield on a team of Wells Fargo stallions. I lost count after the first eight putouts he made while the Marlins center fielder, the much heralded Cameron Maybin, seemed lost out there in the vastness of windy Citi-Field.
What I didn’t expect but what I only had hoped for was the brilliance of the Mets bullpen and how they completely shut down the mighty hitting Marlins who are supposed to challenge along with the Braves, the Phillies for the NL East crown.
After Santana who went six solid innings giving up one run on six hits, Jerry Manuel turned to Fernando Nieve who was Jonathan Niese’s competition for the fifth slot in the rotation. Nieve who had impressed the Mets management last year when all hell was breaking loose, also found his way to the DL and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.
Manuel didn’t waste any time finding out what spots to use Nieve in. Last year, despite the injuries, the pitching staff had that major bugaboo of walking a gazillion batters putting themselves in situations that would usually lead to disaster. Jerry spoke early and often that this year had to be different or else those who couldn’t get those strikes and let the fielders play their game would not be around long enough to matter.
So here’s what Nieve did yesterday. Two innings, two hits, two k’s, 36 pitches 23 of them strikes. That is very nice. Francisco Rodriguez closed out the ninth with one ground ball and two fly outs on 14 pitches of which eight were strikes. Very optimistic results even if it was only Game One.
So now comes the fun. After a day off tomorrow the Mets will throw John Maine at the Marlins on Wednesday night and Jonathan Niese on Thursday. On Friday when the Washington Nationals come to town, most probably licking their wounds from the pounding the Phillies put on them, they will hope to get well against Mike Pelfrey and Ollie Perez before having to face Johan Santana on Sunday with a healthy and ready Jose Reyes in the starting lineup.
By the way, I was surprised and delighted to see Alex Cora make a terrific play on a ball hit in the hole today. He’s certainly no Reyes and not even as defensively sound as a Reuben Tejada, but it was sparkling nevertheless.
OK then optimists, today we had our day in the sun and have the next 36 hours to bask in our victory, but beware there are those so called “Mets Realists” that are just waiting and lurking out there waiting for their turn to ruin our fun. Well, you just never know, they may be waiting a long time in 2010 and may have to get some very heavy wash cloths, because from what I understand egg is very, very, very difficult to clean off your face.
Lets Go 1-0 Mets!