Mancuso: Home Sweet Home For The Mets

New York – After a 2-9 west coast road trip where they batted .181 as a team, the New York Mets were happy to see the friendly confines at home Tuesday evening. Citi Field is where they have achieved most of their success prior to the all-star break with a 30-16 mark.

And once again home field advantage was the remedy. The Mets used the long ball, the timely hit, and got a good pitching effort from Jonathan Niese as they took the first of a three-game series over the central division leading St. Louis Cardinals 8-2.

They won also without their manager Jerry Manuel. Prior to the game Manuel was suspended for one game, fined an undisclosed amount arguing a final out in the top of the second inning in a Mets loss out in Los Angeles last Friday evening.

“We needed to do the things tonight to spring back the confidence from that road trip,” said Manuel who handed the managerial duties to bench coach Dave Jauss. “Home field advantage takes the guys to another level,” he said.

Jason Bay who batted .215 on the road trip, striking out 15 times also sat down and it was not because of his continued struggles at the plate. He sustained a minor concussion running into the wall at Dodger Stadium Friday night. That enabled Jeff Francoeur to get a start in right field.

Francoeur has been the odd man out in the four man outfield. And his placement in the lineup paid dividends as he smacked a three-run homer to left center off Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright in the fourth that gave the Mets a 4-1 lead they would never relinquish.

“I want to be here,” commented Francoeur. A subject of trade rumors, he may now have his job back if he continues to slug the ball like he did against Wainwright. “It’s a crazy place to play, a fun place to play,” he said.

For the first time this season the Citi Field crowd saw Carlos Beltran in the lineup. Beltran sliced a double off Wainwright his first time up in the second and would also walk and score a run in the fourth. “He’s the type of player that can take us if he gets hot,” commented Manuel about the way Beltran looked more confident at the plate.

“Our time will come as a team, my time will come,” said Beltran who also hustled and impressed Manuel running from first to third in the fourth. “Those are the types of things we have to do continually,” added Manuel elaborating further that the Mets success at home as opposed to the road, is knowing, how to play their field.

Jose Reyes also hit a two-run homer in the sixth, his 7th, that gave the Mets their final two runs of the evening.  Runs the Mets are not used to scoring, the team’s biggest offensive game since defeating the Nationals 9-5 on July 4th.  Prior to the game the Mets were held to four or fewer runs in 15 of their last 16 games, distancing themselves further from first place Atlanta in the NL east.

Niese, 7-4, went 6.0 innings giving up one run in the first and retired slugger Albert Pujols three times. Pujlos went 0-5 amid reports that he is suffering from a right muscle pull.  The Mets, shutout four times on the road trip also ended a 17 inning scoreless streak in the second inning with the run off Wainwright (14-6) who got the loss.

The run also snapped his scoreless streak at 26.0 innings which tied for the fifth longest in the majors. “We got the runs off a\ good pitcher and that’s a good start,” said Beltran.

A good start at home again for the Mets, a win they needed to perhaps getting them back in the divisional and wild card race.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Adam Wainwright, Bench Coach, Carlos Beltran, Coach Dave, Crazy Place, Dave Jauss, Dodger Stadium, Friendly Confines, Game Series, Home Field Advantage, Home Sweet Home, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Managerial Duties, Mets New York, Minor Concussion, New York Mets, Niese, Odd Man, Rich Mancuso, St Louis Cardinals, Top Story

Jekyll & Hyde Mets Need to Overcome Road Block to Reach Playoffs

It took about one and one-third seasons, but the New York Mets have finally built a dominant home field advantage in their new home park.

In fact, the Mets are better at home than any team in the major leagues through the first two months of the season.

After a tough 2-6 road trip that began with the Florida Marlins sweeping a four-game series from New York, the Mets returned to Citi Field, where they had already compiled a very solid 14-8 record.

Would the Amazin’s previous home success wane during a six-game homestand against each of last year’s World Series participants?

Hardly. Despite losing the opening game on Friday night, the Mets rebounded to win the final five games of the homestand in impressive fashion, taking two of three games from the New York Yankees before an historic three-game sweep of the defending two-time National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

New York creeped back above the .500 mark at 25-23 and moved to within just two games of the first-place Phillies (26-20) in the National League East.

That in itself is significant, but what was especially remarkable against Philadelphia, was the Mets’ pitching, which shut the Phillies out for the entire series, winning 8-0, 5-0, and 3-0 against one of the more talented and dangerous lineups in the major leagues.

It marked the first time since 2004 that a major league team shut out another over a full three-game set (when current Mets’ pitcher Johan Santana helped Minnesota do that against Kansas City); it was also the first time the Mets threw consecutive shutouts since 1988; and, it was the Mets’ first three-game series shutout over an opponent since New York blanked Philadelphia September 26-28, 1969.

While repeating history more than four decades later, the Mets improved to a major-league best 19-9 at Citi Field.

The problem is that while the Mets lead the majors in home victories, they are last in road wins, with a paltry 6-14 road record.

The dominant starting pitching, able relief help, and timely hitting that the Mets have been getting at home has been much more inconsistent away from the friendly confines of Queens.

While the Mets’ home crowds were fairly sparse and relatively subdued earlier in the year, attendance and the fans’ energy both picked up during the most recent homestand.

Mets’ starter Mike Pelfrey, who has surprisingly become the Mets’ ace after improving his season record to 7-1 while lowering his ERA to 2.54 as the winning pitcher to start off and conclude the Mets’ five-game win streak on the homestand, said after Thursday night’s win over the Phillies, that feeding off of the energy of the home crowd has helped the Mets. “We definitely sense [the energy from the fans], and we feel them.”

Shortstop and offensive catalyst at the top of the Mets’ lineup, Jose Reyes, who went 12-for-23 while scoring five runs and driving in three during the five-game win streak, agreed that the Mets seemed to get up for beating the their hometown and divisional rivals in front of their home crowd.

But, when asked by reporters why the Mets have failed to carry over the same level of play away from home, both Pelfrey and Reyes were left puzzled and without answers. They were simply hopeful that New York could continue to play as well in other parks as they have at Citi Field this season.

The Mets don’t actually need to play nearly that well on the road, but they certainly can’t be the polar opposites they’ve been at home versus on the road so far this season.

While it seems that the Mets’ pitchers have finally learned to use the spacious Citi Field to their advantage, they’ll need to perform much better in smaller parks on the road. And, if it’s the home crowd of late which has helped the Mets’ bats come through, New York’s hitters will have to pack some of those clutch hits with them on most of the Mets’ remaining road trips.

As Mets’ rightfielder Jeff Fancoeur said after Thursday night’s win, the Mets have to find a way to at least play close to .500 on the road.

The good news for New York is that it seems as though Citi Field might for the most part this year remain a place that Mets’ opponents will want to stay away from. Yet, those same teams are for now, more than happy to invite the Mets to their places.

Thus, for the time being, it appears that any possible road to the postseason for the Mets will go literally through… the road.   

Posted under Amazin, Consecutive Shutouts, Florida Marlins, Game Homestand, Game Series, Game Sweep, Home Field Advantage, Home Success, Home Victories, Impressive Fashion, Jekyll Hyde, Johan Santana, League Champion, More Than Four Decades, National League East, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Series Shutout, Top Story, World Series Participants