Optimism again for NY Mets with another season home opening win

Perhaps when the New York Mets opened the 2013 season at Citi Field Monday afternoon they resembled teams of the past. One could say the 1982-83 teams at Shea Stadium are comparable, significant, because that became the building block to the championship year of 1986.

When the first pitch against the San Diego Padres was thrown the announced sell-out crowd of 41,053 had that optimism, but the Mets are years away from making an impact in the standings, and that was before all-star pitcher Johan Santana went down again with a season ending injury to his shoulder.

Santana has probably thrown his last pitch as a Met, and there are doubts the two-time Cy Young Award winner will resume his career. His highlight in New York was that 134-pitch no-hitter, and first in franchise history last June 1st at Citi Field. And speculation is that outing may have ruined his shoulder.

Regardless, Santana is no longer the ace of what is now a young and promising pitching staff. Jonathon Niese got the Opening Day nod, a task he prepared for weeks ago when manager Terry Collins informed the left hander that the job may be his.

New York scored seven runs in three innings, and the effective start by Niese led to an 11-2 win over the Padres. It was the Mets 20th win in their last 22 season openers at home.

“The adrenaline was pumping, I’m not going to lie,” said Niese who went 6.2 innings, on two runs, striking out four in getting his first career opening day win. Niese also helped himself at the plate tying a career high with two hits. He also had an RBI single in the second inning and scored in a three-run Mets fourth.

It was so reminiscent of the first half Mets of last season. They scored nine runs with two outs, and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.  The clubhouse faces have changed, Collins is a lame duck manager, and a full house certainly helped the adrenaline and the rest of these 2013 New York Mets.

The new captain, David Wright had two stolen bases and drove in a run. This was an opening day win that fueled optimism after that dismal second half of 2012 that led to a fourth straight losing season for the Mets.

“So far, so good,” commented Wright who said he was sure to make the Opening Day roster after sitting out the last weeks of spring training with injuries to his rib cage.

Added Wright, “It was good to bust out offensively and get some breathing room for Jon.”

New York also got contributions from Ruben Tejada, who made his second consecutive home start at shortstop. Tejada doubled to left in the second inning, advanced to third on a bad throw and scored on the first single by Niese. The Padres’ Edinson Volquez once again was ineffective against the Mets and his five losses against New York are tied for the most against any team in his career,

“A good start is important, the spring is over,” said Tejada who struggled in 21 exhibition games, going 5-for-52. Collins approached him towards the latter part of the spring campaign and there was talk of not bringing him back to New York and to get extra work at Triple A, Las Vegas.

And the new faces contributed. Marlon Byrd with two RBI singles and the temporary and new catcher John Buck, in the middle of most of the rallies that saw New York put four more runs on the board in the seventh. The acquisitions of GM Sandy Alderson resemble those Mets teams before the 1986 championship season.

They can quickly become fan favorites, but to do so, as in the past, there has to be consistency. Byrd and Buck had RBI singles in the third inning.

“It definitely helped me settle in a little easier,” said Buck who will eventually sit down when the rookie Travis d’Arnaud arrives, a key player in the deal that saw Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey leave town.

Maybe the biggest impact was the new man in center field, 26-year old Collin Cowgill. The leadoff hitter won the job with a good spring and hit his first career grand slam home run off Brad Bach in the seventh.

“Just a humbling experience today,” he said. “This is a good clubhouse and everyone here can contribute to something nice.” Mets fans have heard that in the past, but the unexpected does happen during the long course of a 162-game schedule.

Just ask Collins, who once again said, “It is day one. We have a long way to go. One thing we want to do is establish credibility to our fans.”

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted under Adrenaline, Citi, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Full House, Johan Santana, Lame Duck, Last Pitch, Left Hander, New York Mets, Optimism, San Diego Padres, Seven Runs, Shea Stadium, Top Story

Gem By Hernandez Good As One Thrown By Lee

Cliff Lee the Seattle Mariners left hander did his job going the route and took care of the New York Yankees the night before. Wednesday night it was Felix Hernandez the right hander pitcher of the Mariners who did his part. He also went the distance but his pitching gem may have been better than the one Lee threw.

It was a two-hit complete game 7-0 shut out over the potent Yankees lineup, 115 pitches and everything in his arsenal. As he said, “the slider, curveball, just tried to throw as many strikes as I could.” The Yankees could do nothing and seemed frustrated as they returned to the dugout.

Hernandez would not compare his performance to Lee. What mattered was the Mariners once again got two consecutive complete games from Lee and Hernandez.  And it was the second time this season that Lee and Hernandez won back-to[back games.

It was the third straight complete game for Hernandez, two of them going as a win. Lee got the win Tuesday evening in the Bronx, his third consecutive complete game. “It happens, it happens,” said Hernandez about what he and Lee accomplished over the Yankees the past two nights.

Was there an incentive to top what Lee did? “We’re different pitchers,” said Hernandez who has a career 15-3 record in the month of June. The 24-year old native of Valencia Venezuela also had 11 strikeouts and as play concluded moved to second in that department in the American League.

More importantly, as the Yankees have discovered, if the Mariners continue to get this type of pitching from Lee and Hernandez, well they can make some noise in the second half of the season.

“You talk about the impact that Lee has on this pitching staff, I think it pushes Felix,” commented Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. “I thought it was the best pure stuff that Felix has shown in a game.  He really dominated and kept their hitters off balance. It was a tremendous performance.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Hernandez “He’s as good as we have seen all year. His slider, changeup and curveball, he had it all working tonight. He’s got electric stuff.”

Hernandez finished the month of June with a 4-1 record and a 2.36 ERA and over his last four starts is 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA. “We knew his ability was there,” added Wakamatsu. “The key thing was getting the complete games.  Every time you have an outing like this it’s something to look back on and learn from it.”

The last time the Yankees had back-to-back complete games thrown against them was back in April of 2000 when Toronto’s Chris Carpenter and Kelvin Escobar did it up in Toronto. And it has not happened in consecutive home games since 1991.

Said Girardi, “Good pitching will always beat good hitting; that’s the bottom line.”  For the Mariners the bottom line is getting the rest of their pitching staff to follow in the footsteps of Lee and Hernandez.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Complete Game, Complete Games, Curveball, Dugout, Felix Hernandez, Game 7, Joe Girardi, Left Hander, Manager Don, Month Of June, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pitchers, Pitches, Seattle Mariners, Second Time, Slider, Top Story, Tuesday Evening, Valencia Venezuela, Wednesday Night, Yankees Lineup

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 1, 2010