A Slam-Bang Opening with More on the Way

The Mets won on Opening Day, 11-2.

No surprise there, of course they won on Opening Day, as they have been doing so consistently the past 40 years, continuing their mastery of season debuts with the major’s best winning percentage (.654) and an overall mark of 34-18 on Opening Days. And this after losing the first eight Opening Days in franchise history, including the legendary Championship season of 1969, when they welcomed the Montreal Expos to the big leagues with an 11-10 loss.

Can you believe it? They’re 34-10 since that loss to the first Canadian club on Opening Day. They’ve won seven of their last eight openers, and are 20-2 in their last 22 opening days at home, another good reason why tickets to the day the Shea family presents the horseshoe-shaped flower arrangement to the manager go for a premium.

New centerfielder Collin Cowgill reinforced his growing legion of fans and chants of “More Cowgill” with his seventh inning Grand Slam against the Padres in the icebreaker. The only other Met to slice a Grand Salami on Opening Day was Todd Hundley back in 1995, in Colorado against Billy Swift.

And it is certainly not much of a shock to learn Cowgill is the only Met to hit a Grand Slam in his Mets debut.

The other Met to earn a headline of distinction, other than starter Jonathon Niese, who was good, but not great with a 6.2 inning stint (four hits, two earned runs, 2 walks, and four strikeouts), was new Mets pitcher Scott Rice, who made his major league debut after toiling in the minors and professional baseball for 14 years. What a long strange trip it had been for Rice, 31, a lefthanded California native, who had worn system uniforms for the Orioles, Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, and Cubs, plus several teams in Independent leagues, including the Long Island Ducks.

Amazingly, and understandably, Rice had a few butterflies when he first exited the bullpen for his ninth inning appearance, but he also enjoyed a level of comfort which enabled him to hurl a clean inning with two strikeouts.

“Being with the team all through the spring, I just felt really comfortable,” Rice told the media after the game. “But once batters step in, it’s baseball. So I went out there and just tried to stay relaxed.”

The experience was made that much more special with his father in the stands.

“My dad has been the reason why I played baseball growing up,” Rice added. “He basically taught me the fundamentals and everything I know about baseball. He’s the guy I called after every outing. It’s nice that he was able to be there. It’s just as rewarding for him as it is for me.”

Mr. Rice now has a special souvenir for the trophy case, the baseball which ended the game and his son’s major league debut.

The mastery over the Padres continued in Game 2, as exalted sophomore Matt Harvey looked Goodenesque in the first three innings with five K’s and no hits.

His first appearance continued with a dynamic seven-inning shutout stint, with 10 strikeouts, one hit, and just two walks (94 pitches/63 strikes).

The Harvey Era is just warming up. But…

Manager Terry Collins took him out more so due to the blustery 44 degree weather than his pitching performance.

“He was freezing,” Collins remarked. “Under the circumstances, he threw an unbelievable game.”

When asked about Harvey’s overall ability, Collins was equally complimentary.

“His work ethic is unbelievable. He’s got all the skills. He has plus stuff, an outstanding changeup, and still throws 97, 98. Has command of the fastball.”

And his desire is off the charts.

“No question he enjoys the stage. He likes to be out there. He likes to compete. You don’t say you want to be the best there is unless you’re willing to pay the price.”

Lucas Duda maintained his spring training habit of hitting a few home runs, and launched a two-run blast in the second, his first home run of the year.

John Buck duplicated the feat with a two-run shot of his own in the fourth, scoring Duda, who had doubled to right preceding the new everyday catcher.

Ike Davis extended the home run barrage with his first of the year, denting the Shea-Bridge with a two-run arc in the fifth.

Bobby Parnell closed out what turned out to be a sloppy three-run ninth (not of his making) in a non-save situation for the eventual 8-4 victory, and just like that, the 2013 Mets were 2-0.

You can never tell until the games are played, but the Mets have a chance to get out of the gate with a gallop in April, as their first six games, and 13 of their first 16 games are against teams expected to finish below .500. Then again, the Mets are predicted to finish below .500 as well, but their spring showings have been impressive. If – and there’s the big IF – their starting pitching is as good as advertised, and the bullpen pours water and not gasoline on potential flare-ups, then the potential is evident for a healthy first month.

There’s also back-sliding in the forecast as well, with a resurgent Philadelphia, a money-stuffed Los Angeles, and the new powerhouse Washington on the menu.

But 15 of the first 27 games are against the likes of the Padres, Marlins, Rockies, and Minnesota Twins.

History can predict the future, but it can also paralyze predictions as one day does not always equal the next.

The Mets have done well against San Diego of late, taking four of seven games from the Pads in both 2011 and ’12.

New York also had the goods on those “brand-new” Marlins last year, going 12-6. But this year’s Marlins certainly bear little resemblance to last year’s Marlins, so time will tell if that dominance will be extended.

As for the Twins, they don’t show up on the schedule too often, but the Mets did take two of three in 2010. Overall, with only four seasons of play against the AL club managed by ex-Met Ron Gardenhire, the Twins hold the edge on the Mets, 7-5.

The Mets took the season series with the Phillies last year, 10-8. But the Broad Street bashers have some of their key players back from injuries since last season, so it may be tougher sledding this year.

The Dodgers were a nemesis in 2012, as they arguably always have been unkind to their New York offspring (258-314-1 in franchise history), besting the Mets in four of seven games last year. The Mets, however, “loved” LA in 2011, winning five of seven battles.

Perhaps the less said about the Nationals the better, as they killed the Mets in 14 of 18 contests last seasons. But how can you not love their skipper, Davey Johnson? When he’s managing the Nationals, that’s when. Mets fans will love him again next year, when he retires from managing, as he has stated.

One of the keys to a successful season is a successful April, so the Mets have that doorway open if they take the steps toward more Ws than Ls. The framework forged against the Padres will certainly aid that goal if they continue to blast and pitch.

Posted under Andy Esposito, California Native, Centerfielder, Flower Arrangement, Grand Salami, Grand Slam, Independent Leagues, Jonathon Niese, League Debut, Lefthanded, Long Island Ducks, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Seventh Inning, Shea Family, Slam Bang, Strange Trip, Todd Hundley, Top Story

Not everything was great out of the pen for Francisco in a close call as Mets beat Braves

Jonathon Niese was cruising along at Citi Field Sunday night. The New York Mets starter pitched eight effective innings, allowed one run and struck out six Atlanta Braves. And then the call to the bullpen and everything went wrong, but, according to closer Frank Francisco, everything went right.

Francisco, who has had his problems closing games, making his second appearance since coming off the disabled list Friday, was ineffective. He walked two with the bases loaded in the ninth, and gave up a two-run double to Martin Prado.

He squandered a 6-1 lead, could not find the strike zone and gave the ball to Jon Rauch with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second. Afterwards, as the Mets dressed and left town with a 6-5 win, losing two of three to Atlanta, Francisco could not be serious.

“They wore me out a little bit, and I’m a little bit out of shape,” said Francisco. That was the serious part. After that, you wonder how much Francisco is serious about being an effective closer.

A major part of the Mets second half collapse has been their inability to drive in runs with two outs, and ineffective starting pitching. Sunday night, Niese (9-6) bounced back from a bad outing against the Marlins on Tuesday.

As the Mets did so effectively in the first half, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis drove in a run apiece with two outs. Thursday, in their only win against the Marlins, R.A. Dickey got the complete game win, his 15th, and New York drove in five of their six runs with two out hits.

Jordany Valdespin continued to make an impression with manager Terry Collins. Inserted in left field, Valdespin hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, his eighth off losing pitcher Ben Sheets (4-2) that built a 5-1  lead. Collins intends to give him more playing time.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be given the chance and show why I can play here,” said Valdespin about a role in the outfield and also being used in the infield.

However, a constant for the Mets woes is having the most ineffective pen in the game. Before Francisco got the ball, rookie Josh Edgin got the call. He walked two and hit a batter. Francisco could not get the third out and Rauch put out the fire when Jason Heyward swung and missed a slider in the dirt.

But, according to Francisco, the Mets got a win and everything is alright.

The closer, after his comments Sunday night may be the laughing stock of New York baseball. He could not provide the proper answer as to his inability to throw strikes, and make it easy for his manager Terry Collins and those left in the crowd of 24, 891.

“We got a win, that’s the important thing, “commented Francisco about his shaky outing. And then, he ridiculed media by his locker when he said, “It was easy. I’m a bit out of shape. I just got tired. I feel great. You know why, I feel good. That’s it, no more questions?”

Of course, no more questions because Francisco can’t give the answers. Niese watched from the dugout hoping it was not another collapse.

“That was tough,” he said. “I can’t sugarcoat that by any means. But they got the job done,” commenting about the pen, “and that’s all that matters.”

And Collins, looking forward to a day off in Cincinnati Monday, before New York begins a three-game series with the NL Central leading Reds, needed the win. Then it is three more at NL east leading Washington.

It was the Mets ninth win in their last 30 games that has put them out of contention.

“We needed this, we have not played well,” said Collins. “I am not making any excuses. We have not played well on any side of the ball. So this win helped. I don’t care how It came about. I’m glad to get it.”

And for Francisco, apparently he does not care how the win came. The Mets won, however, their closer, ineffective as he was, said he feels good. Though Mets fans, and Collins can’t continue to have that good feeling about his inability to close games.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com and at facebook.com/Keep It in the Ring.

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Collapse, Complete Game, Jonathon Niese, Marlins, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Second Half, Sixth Inning, Strike Zone, Tejada, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 13, 2012

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Mets End Five Game Losing Streak with 11-7 Victory over Atlanta

Flushing, NY—-The second game of the three game weekend series between New York and Atlanta 0n Saturday night began after a one hour and two minute rain delay. The wait was well worthwhile for the Amazinns as they ended a five game losing streak with an 11-7 victory.

The Mets did not waste much time after the start of the contest to put numbers on the scoreboard. With one out in the first, Justin Turner blasted a solo home run into the rightfield seats. Daniel Murphy followed with a solid single to center. He scored on a David Wright double that reached the left-centerfield wall. The Mets scored the first two runs before Tommy Hanson threw his 11th pitch of the game.

The Braves batted around and scored five runs in the top of the third without hitting the baseball especially hard. Five timely singles, a base on balls and two ground ball outs that drove in runs did the damage against Mets starter Jonathon Niese. Mets catcher Josh Thole commented, “It was more misexecuted pitches than anything.”

Two of the base hits in the third extended hitting streaks. Braves rookies Freddie Freeman, the National League Rookie of the Month in July, extended his hitting streak to 20 consecutive games with an RBI single to center with no one out. The first sacker’s current mark is the MLB rookie high for 2011. If Freeman hits safely in the next three games, he will tie Alvin Dark, who hit safely in 23 straight games in 1948, for the Braves rookie record.

The next batter, Dan Uggla dribbled a ground ball down the third base line for an infield single. The hit extended his hitting streak to a career high of 27 games. Later in the contest, he hit his 24th homer of the season. The accomplishment of the duo is only the third time in the majors that teammates have had concurrent 20 or more game hitting streaks at the same time.

The Mets scored two additional runs in the bottom of the same inning to cut the deficit to a single run, 5-4. Angel Pagan walked and scored on a two-run homer by Jason Bay. The leftfielder, who has heard more than his share of jeers since joining the Mets, was cheered when the ball he hit entered the leftfield seats. After the contest, Mets skipper Terry Collins said, “I thought getting the two runs back was very good for us.”

A lead-off home run by Josh Thole tied the score at 5 in the fourth. Later in the inning, the Mets again took the lead, 7-5, as Turner hit his second homer of the contest, a two-run blast with Jose Reyes on base. Turner had 191 at bats without a home run before hitting his homer in the first. His two long balls marked his first multi-homer game in the majors.

The teams swung the bats very well as every position player in both starting lineups hit safely.

Each team scored several more runs, but the Mets advantage remained in effect. Niese, who hurled five innings, earned his 11th victory of 2011.

The rubber game of the series on Sunday afternoon will pit Dillon Gee (10-3) of the mets against Mike Minor (1-2).

Posted under Alvin Dark, Base On Balls, Consecutive Games, Daniel Murphy, First Sacker, Game Losing Streak, Game Weekend, Hitting Streaks, Jonathon Niese, Josh Thole, Minute Rain Delay, New York Mets, Rookie Record, Second Game, Single Run, Straight Games, Top Story

This post was written by Howard Goldin on August 7, 2011

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Mets Crush Tigers, 14-6

New York – The New York Mets (40-30) returned to Citifield in fine fashion defeating the Detroit Tigers (38-31) by the score of 14-6 in a wet and wild game. As at one point things were delayed fifty eight minutes due to a downpour, as the Mets were able to pour in some key hits and runs against one of the American League’s best pitchers in righty Justin Verlander.

Centerfielder Angel Pagan had a great day at the plate going four-for-six matching a career-high in hits tonight while also driving in four RBI. Also having a good night for the Mets offensively was Ike Davis who was three-for-six while driving in three runs.

“Angel has been playing extremely well for us,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said after the game. “He got big hits for us tonight, he hit that fastball for a triple and he’s just played extremely well.”

Mets starter Jonathon Niese had a great start but could not hold on to get the win. Niese pitched a three inning shutout before finding trouble in the fourth inning. Relief pitcher Fernando Nieve had a solid outing in getting his second win of the season going 2 and one-third innings striking out four batters while only giving up one walk.  The rest of the Mets bullpen was solid as well as Bobby Parnell who made his 2010 Mets debut this evening had a scoreless eighth inning striking out two batters.

“Nieve looked really well out on the mound the last two outings,” Manuel said. “He has pitched very well for us; he was really able to stretch out a couple of innings for us and gave us a chance to score runs which was huge.”

New York got on the board with two runs in the bottom of the first inning as Jose Reyes hit a leadoff infield single. Pagan ripped a triple (5) to center field. David Wright plated the second run with a sacrifice fly to right field.

In the bottom of the third was a huge one for the Mets as they were able to plate eight runs and bat around the order. Wright started the offense that inning with a walk. Ike Davis continued with a single to left-center field. Jason Bay plated the third run by scorching a double to the exact same spot. That was when the rain began to pour along with more Mets runs as Tigers Pitcher Jay Sborz making his Major League Debut in the worst possible manner by hitting both Rod Barajas and Jeff Francoeur to plate the fourth run. Ruben Tejada hit into a fielder’s choice play which plated the fifth run. Back-to-back singles by Reyes and Pagan continued the inning for the Mets, while Pagan plated two more runs. Wright would bat for the second time this inning and cashed in with a single to center field.  The Tigers would call in Brad Thomas to try to shut down the offense, but it would not work out as Davis would plate two more runs by ripping a double to left field to plate the final two runs and make the score 10-0 in favor of the Mets.

The top of the fourth inning was when Niese the perfect game was spoiled, as Miguel Cabrera ripped a double (20) to right-center field for the first Tigers hit. Brennan Boesch hit a home run (11) to right-center field to cut into the lead. In the bottom half of the inning the runs would continue to pour in as Pagan would plate another run with a double (14) to center field, which plated Reyes who singled to center earlier in the inning.

Niese continued to find trouble in the top of the fifth inning as he hit pitch hitter Ryan Rayburn. Austin Jackson doubled (18) to plate Rayburn. Gerald Laird placed a single to center field which would plate Jackson cutting the Mets lead to 11-4. The fifth Detroit run would be plated one batter later as Brennan Boesch hit a single to center field. Mets manager Jerry Manuel had to make the call to the pen as Fernando Nieve would come into the game. Nieve would give up a hit to Danny Worth which would plate the sixth and final run before striking out the side.

“Niese was trying to be too careful with the lead,” Manuel said to reporters of his starters’ performance. “It was a good lesson for him tonight on the mound. To have a big lead and not go back out right away and pitch, and it was a good lesson.”

Reyes and Pagan would get the Mets offense going in the bottom of the sixth. Reyes struck out was able to get to first as the final strike went wide and hit the backstop. Pagan ripped a single to right field setting up runners on first and second for David Wright who hit a double (19) to left field and plating Reyes. Ike Davis hit a single to left field to plate Pagan and finally the third and final run was scored as Jason Bay lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to make the score 14-6 Mets.

Game two between these two teams will happen on Wednesday as righty R.A. Dickey (5-0, 2.82 ERA) takes on Jeremy Bonderman (3-4, 4.06 ERA) the first pitch for game two is slated for 7:10 p.m.

This story was originally posted on www.latinosports.com

Posted under Batters, Bullpen, Centerfielder, David Wright, Detroit Tigers, Downpour, Eighth Inning, Fastball, Fernando Nieve, Inning Shutout, Jonathon Niese, Jose Reyes, Justin Verlander, New York Mets, Pagan, Parnell, Pitchers, Relief Pitcher, Sacrifice Fly, Top Story, Wild Game

This post was written by Stacy Rae Podelski on June 23, 2010

Mets Give The Phils Another Blanking

New York – Tuesday evening it was R.A. Dickey and Raul Valdes shutting out the Philadelphia Phillies 8-0.  Last night at Citi Field it was Left hander Hisanori Takahashi, Jenrry Mejia and Ryota Igarashi shutting down the Phils again 5-0.  Who would have wondered with two thirds of the Mets starting rotation missing that this was possible.

“He’s a great pitcher with great instincts,” said Mets Manager Jerry Manuel about Takahaski who threw six scoreless innings, He gave up five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out six.  Combined with Dickey throwing six shut out innings against the Phillies, suddenly Manuel has two reliable starters that follow Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey.

And afterwards, Manuel would commit. The 35-year old Takahaski who spent a good part of his career in Japan, has earned a spot in the rotation. “To have a performance such as that especially, against two very good teams, elite teams, it lengthens the opportunity for him,” said Manuel. “He had great command of his pitches.”

Takahaski (4-1) threw six scoreless innings in his big league debut as a starter against the cross-town Yankees last Friday giving up five hits in a no decision. Signed in the off season to a free agent deal, he had 16 relief appearances after 202 career starts in Japan,

“I know my pitching style and I prefer to do the same here,” said Takahaski through a translator. He apparently knows the scouting reports getting Phillies home run hitter Ryan Howard to swing at a third strike on a changeup, and credited Rod Barajas with a good game plan.

But with Oliver Perez regulated to the bullpen, and with Jonathon Niese and John Maine disabled, Takahaski was granted the opportunity. It has become a welcome reprieve for Manuel. Suddenly the Mets, with another four-game wining streak have seen their starters have a Major League leading 1.37 ERA in their last nine games

Dickey has been a sudden surprise also. And then there is Jose Reyes, always a catalyst in the lineup who has resembled the Reyes of old. The legs are strong again and he is taking the extra base.  He made a sparkling play in the fourth inning reaching out and retiring former teammate Brian Schneider on a pop out in the fifth inning

And Reyes for the first time this season, leading off in the third inning hit the ball over the fence to right field off  Phils starter and loser Joe Blanton (1-3) that gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. “We’re playing good baseball,” said Manuel. “Jose Reyes is igniting the club”

“Right now, when I get on base two or thee times I feel like myself, said Reyes who went 2-for-4 and has four consecutive multi-hit games. Since returning to the leadoff spot on May 15th, Reyes is hitting .300 with nine runs scored, a double, one triple, a home run and five runs batted in.

The shutouts and new pitching rotation, along with Reyes, and timely hitting has given the Mets new life. They once again climbed a game over .500 (24-23) and there is no talk of Manuel losing his job.  “Quite an accomplishment of using two starters we hadn’t used in spring training,” said Manuel.

The Mets look for the sweep against the Phillies Thursday evening with Pelfrey taking the mound for New York, looking for his sixth win. Then it is off to Milwaukee and San Diego, but the good play has to continue away from Citi Field as the Mets lead baseball with 18 home wins.

Manuel and the Mets have to get some wins away from Citi Field, especially now with Reyes playing, like himself. Added to the equation is Takahashi, getting another well deserved start now that he is in the rotation.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring 786@aol.com

Posted under Changeup, Cross Town, Elite Teams, Game Plan, Good Game, Home Run Hitter, Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Jose Reyes, League Debut, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Relief Appearances, Rod Barajas, Ryan Howard, Ryota, Scoreless Innings, Scouting Reports, Sudden Surprise, Top Story, Welcome Reprieve