Rookie skipper Mickey Callaway is making all the right moves as the Mets improve to 7-1 for their best eight-game start in franchise history.
“That’s big time,” said Seth Lugo, who chipped in three scoreless frames “We’re having a lot of fun in here, and to keep that energy going, that’s big for us.”
After a series of injuries, poor conditioning, and serious lapses in managerial decisions, someone is finally minding the store, and the players are reaping the benefits of a man who’s determined to make the marriage to his new ball club successful.
The 42-year-old Callaway came to Queens with a vision of how to mold the talent he was given, and improve on the pieces of the puzzle that were missing. Eight games into the season, the Mets are more aggressive on the bases, the bullpen is baffling, and Matt Harvey, thus far, is humble.
“The way we pulled out the win today and kept battling and kept fighting, it shows a lot about this team and what we’re about,” Harvey said. “I think it’s sending a message not only to the guys across the locker room here but all of baseball.”
Sunday night in the final game of their three game sweep of the Nationals, the scruffy bearded manager showed moxie by calling for consecutive intentional walks of the hot hitting Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner in the ninth inning of a 5-5 game with Bryce Harper on third with one out. Starter turned sensational reliever Seth Lugo then punched out Michael Taylor looking and Pedro Severino swinging.
With the exception of Amed Rosario’s suspect bunting style, everything the Mets are doing this season seems – smarter. After Tanner Roark loaded the bases with one out in the third, Adrian Gonzalez had the presence of mind to look for a first pitch fastball, which he got, then launched into the Nationals’ bullpen for his first home run in his new uniform and a 4-2 lead.
Gonzalez also added a beautiful potential game saving defensive play in the bottom of the 10th with a diving stab of Bryce Harper’s scorched ground ball. Seth Lugo dropped the toss covering first, but kept is cool and his outstretched cleat on the bag to erase Harper by a hair.
From Callaway’s line-up cards to his bullpen and pinch-hitting decisions, the guy can do no wrong. In the top of the 12th, he called on Juan Lagares to bat for Lugo, and the outfielder, who’d prefer to play every day, lined a single to center, taking second on a sacrifice bunt by Rosario, then scored the winning run on a broken bat base hit by Yoenis Cespedes, who was 0-for-5 on the night.
“In my six years in the big leagues this is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Cespedes said. “We’ve been showing it and we’ll keep proving it.”
It’s hard to not get so giddy this early on in the season, but Callaway is putting a fresh spin on Mets baseball and making it a lot of fun to watch.
“From spring training, starting with (Mickey Callaway) and working all the way down, it’s been such an unbelievable clubhouse,” Harvey said. “It’s nice to come in here and have fun with everybody once again. It’s been a long time since that’s happened.”