Doug’s Dugout: One Game At A Time
Anytime the Mets sweep the Braves, regardless of expectations, it’s a great feeling. Because no team in the Eastern Division has inflicted more hurt on the Amazins. If only they had stayed in the Western Division, like it was the first year of divisional play in 1969 (when the Mets outslugged Henry Aaron’s crew to cop their first NL pennant).
Nevertheless, since Atlanta’s last-to-first resurgence in 1991, they have consistently spanked the Mets and obliterated them in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and Turner Field. So, this three-game sweep to commence the 2012 campaign is sweet. Factor in the doom and gloom predictions, and another layer of chocolate cake should be added.
First of all, the pitching was solid. Johan Santana, once the Ace of the staff could re-claim his lofty standing. He can be counted on five innings a start for April, at least, then by the time summer begins, he could be his 7-8 inning former self.
R.A. Dickey seems relaxed and very comfortable in his skin. His knuckleball has plenty of tread left on it. Who knows, he could be baffling hitters for the Mets as long as Tim Wakefield did for the Red Sox (he pitched until he was 49).
Moreover, Jon Niese pitched like someone worthy of a $25 million commitment. He flirted with the franchise’s first no-hitter, with six frames of nada for the Bravos. He did tire a tad, and wasn’t aided by Lucas Duda’s butchery of a routine fly ball.
Speaking of Duda, he’s a fast learner and will take the next launch to his quadrant off to the side, to minimize the blinding glare. Taking a ball head on is just inexperience having his way with the quiet blossoming star.
Anyway, if he provides the heat seeking missiles-like he twice detonated on Saturday, a few miscues in the outfield will be tolerated. Duda’s fast start even (might’ve) inspired Jason Bay to get off the RBI schneid. Bay, also recorded two singles, or as many as Dickey and Niese combined.
There simply are no more excuses left in the (wishing) well for Bay. He hits or he must sit. Then again, with the Mets wafer thin bench, the fans might be subjected to another year of his perplexing fall from grace.
This is where Sandy Alderson has to step up. And throw the starving fans a bone. It doesn’t have to be a meaty one, just something to gnaw on. How costly can it be to add someone to spot start in the outfield and bolster the bench?
Well, if David Wright hits .667 the rest of the way, Bay’s production will be a moot point. Combined with Duda’s power, and rumor has it, that Ike Davis arrives from Port St. Lucie any day now!
Thankfully, the much-maligned bullpen from spring training was left down in St. Lucie County, and the Mets banged out 31 hits in the three game sweep. One thing is certain: Daniel Murphy can mash (and Reuben Tejada has a bright future).
If the Mets’ mantra was “Ya Gotta Believe,” in 1973, then 39 years later it should be, “One Game at a Time.”
Finally, if the Mets don’t sell out next Wednesday afternoon, a projected Santana-Stephen Strasburg match-up, and rollback $2.50 tickets, then the chance of a full house this season might have come and gone. That is unless they continue to play the Braves.
About the Author: Doug Branch
Doug has been sports writing since 1983. He first wrote about the Mets at spring training that year, and his first interviewee was surly catcher Ron Hodges. He currently writes for Mets Inside Pitch, among other magazines published by Scout Publishing-which is owned by Fox Sports. He began following the team during the Wes Westrum era, and redeemed many Borden milk coupons for free Saturday baseball. The night of Tom Seaver's imperfect game against the Cubs, he was in line to buy a ticket when the windows slammed shut and abject disappointment ensued.
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