Santana no-hitter one of those good moments for a Mets fan

There I was, night off from the ballpark, listening and watching my favorite  alternative rock band “Weezer”  in Atlantic City New Jersey in the Bogata Hotel showroom. It was planned, the birthday gift from three weeks ago. What wasn’t in the plan was Johan Santana throwing a no-hitter at Citi Field on the first day of June.

A Friday evening at Citi Field where, I would usually be situated, upstairs in my perch in the comfortable press box, but the first no-no in New York Mets history, 50-years of futility and I was not there to see it.

Yes, frustration. And moments after Mets SNY Television voice Gary Cohen said after being questioned, ‘did he ever think it would happen, his response, ‘No, but now it has’ Weezer would finish their last number.

That number, “Say it Ain’t So.”

But it is true. After 8,020 games, Mets radio voice Howie Rose, and fans of the second baseball team in New York, can now say, the New York Mets have made baseball history. They are no longer one of two teams to not have a pitcher throw the illustrious no-hitter.

It is so, and the San Diego Padres have that lone distinction.

Mike Baxter, the kid from Queens, crashed into the center field wall on the warning track to keep the suspense going. The Carlos Beltran ball that hit the chalk beyond third base appeared to be an extra base hit. The umpire, according to replays may have got it wrong.

To Mets’ fans, and to Santana, the call went their way. The no-hitter is in the record books and well deserved for a pitcher who many said was finished.

It was back in late March. Santana was not supposed to come north with the team at the end of spring training. The comeback from shoulder surgery, which shut Santana down all last year, was slow and cautious. However, it was soon, according to Santana, working according to the plan.

That plan, which was heard since his opening day start in early April, was continue to make adjustments as this Mets team had trouble scoring runs, but staying competitive. Then the last three starts you sensed the plan was ahead of schedule.

Santana was throwing more pitches, going deeper into games. The changeup was effective, so was the slider. The fastball was getting close to his velocity, clocked close to 90, or more.

The manager, Terry Collins was more concerned about the pitch count. Last Saturday, at Citi field, Santana threw 94 pitches, the complete game shutout over the San Diego Padres. Collins let him continue, as he did Friday night with a career high 134 pitches, concerned about the shoulder.

After that sixth inning, Collins asked Santana, “How do you feel?” The ace, who said afterwards, he came to New York “to win a championship for the organization and fans,” told his manager, ‘I feel good, let me continue.’

It was a momentous occasion for a franchise that has been troubled with financial issues .And nothing has seemed to go right since that last game of 2006, when Beltran struck out with runners on base, at Shea Stadium, in game seven of the National League Championship Series.

That was against the same St. Louis Cardinals who go in the record book as victims of the Santana no-hitter.

It was the first and real significant moment at Citi Field for Mets baseball. Santana erased the close calls of Tom Seaver, the last Mets pitcher to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning. The first one, of three close calls, a perfect game broke up by Jimmy Qualls of the Chicago Cubs in 1969.

It will be remembered what Johan Santana did Friday night. The umpire, Adrian Johnson, at third base, may have missed that Beltran call in the sixth inning. But that does not matter now. Johan Santana may have put the New York Mets back on the map with that outing on the mound at Citi Field.

Just hope “Weezer” does not get in the way again for another possible and maybe another no-hitter in New York Mets baseball history, or perhaps another first, a perfect game as they go into game number 8,021.

E-mail Rich Mancuso:  Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Alternative Rock Band, Band Weezer, Baseball Team, Bogata Hotel, Carlos Beltran, Gary Cohen, Hotel Showroom, Johan Santana, Mets Fans, Mets Team, Mike Baxter, New York Mets, Radio Voice, Rich Mancuso, San Diego Padres, Sny, Top Story, Warning Track

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 3, 2012

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Mets Sweep Gives Team Hope

New York – A prevailing mood in the New York Mets clubhouse is that they can win and have an impact in the National League East. And after completing a three-game sweep Sunday afternoon at Citi Field over the division rival Atlanta Braves, 7-5, there is every reason to put things in another perspective.

Winning ballgames, and more than the experts predicted has put a different perspective on what is expected to be another dismal season in Flushing. This was the first time in a 50 –year history of the club when a Mets team started the season with a three- game sweep over a division rival.

At 3-0, and with the cross- town Yankees off to a 0-3 start, this is something the organization is hoping will regenerate some interest. More so, if the wins can continue in the next three games at home with the Washington Nationals, getting a good start out of the gate is what will convince fans that this may not be dismal as was expected.

“This means everything,” said Manager Terry Collins when asked about the three games against Atlanta that saw his team pitch effectively, use the long ball, and also get the timely hit. “We’ve done a lot of talk in spring training about getting ready to compete. I told those guys in the first meeting ‘you’re professional baseball players and there are expectations in this town and in this clubhouse.’”

Numerous times last season, his first, Collins reiterated about expectation but the message did not carry into wins. A second half finish saw New York finish fourth in the division with 77 wins, and then losing Jose Reyes to free agency, now with the Miami Marlins, made the outlook look more dismal for 2012.

However, Reyes, for the moment has quickly not been a topic at Citi Field. His replacement, 22-year old shortstop Ruben Tejada, had a career day Sunday with a career high four hits with two doubles, driving in two runs.

“We have to keep working hard every day,” commented Tejada. “We play hard and together as a team,” he said.

And that was a prevailing attitude of this Mets team after the season opening series sweep Sunday afternoon. They believe in themselves as a team and despite what the prognosticators say, they have no intention of making this a dismal season.

And if the Mets get good starting pitching, as they did Sunday from Jonathon Niese, Saturday from R.A. Dickey, and in the opener Thursday, five strong innings from Johan Santana, well this could become a special season. But will the pitching stay consistent? Can Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, who start the first two games with the Nationals Monday and Tuesday, be just as good?

“You can’t ask for better than that,” said Collins about the starts that have put the Mets at 3-0 for the first time since 2007 when they won their first four. “We saw that in spring training even though our starters did not go deep. We like our rotation,” he said also referring to Gee and Pelfrey.

Niese, in particular, who signed a long term contract Saturday, struggled often last year.  At times there were doubts he could be a quality starting pitcher. The return of Santana has inspired the pitching staff, and according to guys in the clubhouse the entire roster.

“They want to compete and do what he does,” said Collins. “He creates a great atmosphere. It spreads.

Niese flirted with a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Freddie Freeman singled to right field with no outs.  He would allow four runs, two earned, seven strikeouts and two walks. He lasted two more batters after the hit by Freeman. Atlanta scored four runs in the seventh. Lucas Duda lost a ball in the sun, and Jason Howard had a two-run double.

“It would have been hard to take me out,” said Niese who had a 93 mile fastball and control that was rare last season. The Mets after 7,911 games still remain one of four teams in baseball that have never had a no-hitter pitched. “We have a staff that likes to compete with each other and that is a good thing,” said Niese.

And this start has also been attributed to a revamped bullpen. Frank Francisco closed his third consecutive game becoming the first player in franchise history to save his first three games. Prior to a Brian McCann home run in the eighth inning it was the first Mets run surrendered by the pen. In three games the pen has allowed  one earned run in 10.0 innings.

“We have to pitch,” said Collins. “We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a long way to go.  All we want to do is stay competitive.”

They have come out of the gate with this good start. That is what every Mets fan needed to see, and this team believes it will continue. David Wright is hitting with authority and showing signs of his old self. Daniel Murphy picked up a couple of hits and two RBI, including a two-run double in the three-run Mets sixth.

Now they need Ike Davis to get it going as well as Jason Bay, two silent bats in the first three games. But they feel like everyone else in the Mets clubhouse. It will come.

“I’m just a little off right now, I’m not worried,” said Davis. His feeling is the hits will come and go five for his next ten, and there will be no reason for concern. “It’s only three games,” he says about going hitless in his first eleven times at the plate.

Last season that would have been a concern. But for now, with the three- game sweep coming out of the gate, there is not one player in that Mets clubhouse who will think otherwise. Winning and a different perspective of what they are capable of doing is here to stay,

Jose Thole the rookie catcher said in that clubhouse Sunday, “We have a team that can win and we will continue to do it.”  And for the first three games the Mets have certainly proved they can be competitive.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Career Day, Cross Town, Different Perspective, Dismal Season, Division Rival, Game Sweep, Hope New York, Jose Reyes, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Team, National League East, New York Mets, Professional Baseball Players, Rich Mancuso, Shortstop, Spring Training, Team Hope, Three Games, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 9, 2012

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Dickey gives Mets a going away win as Beltran goes down

New York – Consider that the New York Mets took two of three games from the Atlanta Braves with their 6-4 win Sunday evening at Citi Field. It concluded a 5-5 home stand, losing two of three to the Philadelphia Phillies and splitting a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It could have been four more wins if it were not for the seventh and eighth inning failures that cost them ballgames.

“We had some tough times but to come in here and beat the Braves two out of three, leave here on a positive note, win the series, you’ve got to look at it positively,” said Mets manager Terry Coillins. A highlight was overcoming a 7-0 deficit to the Pirates Thursday afternoon and doing something a Mets team had not accomplished since the season of 2000.

The starting pitching has been respectable. Collins could not ask for more from his starters who have posted a 3.04 ERA in their last 11 games. The latest was R.A. Dickey (3-6) making his second start with an injury to his right foot. The knuckleball was effective as Dickey pitched eight solid innings. His four hits allowed included a solo home run to Brian McCann in the seventh inning.

And before the McCann home run, Dickey had not allowed a runner past second. He has thrown at least 5.0 innings in 35 of his last 37 starts since joining the Mets last season. “Physically, it’s just an issue we’re going to have to work through for who knows how long,” he said about the injury.  “But it’s manageable.”

And what has been recently been constant, a failure of the bullpen continued in the late innings. Before Dickey could get the win, Manny Acosta gave up two runs in the ninth and closer Francisco Rodriguez gave up the second career pinch hit home run to Diory Hernandez, a three-run shot to left centerfield.

Jose Reyes continued to be the hottest hitter in baseball as constant chants of “Don’t trade Reyes” could be heard during the course of the game from the Sunday night crowd of 21.015.He had an RBI double to left center in the fourth Inning that put New York up 5-0 and scored twice, extending his hitting streak to 10 games, a league leading 28th multi-hit game and batting .465 during the streak.

Before that, New York put two runs on the board in the first and another two in the second. They have plated 36 first inning runs, tied for fourth in baseball. That alone should have been enough to build on this past week, but the late inning mistakes from the bullpen and on the field cost them, leading to a tirade and team meeting called by Collins after a loss to Pittsburgh Wednesday evening.

Reyes’ ninth consecutive run scored equaled the longest streak of his career, the second longest streak in baseball this season. In the last season of a contract and subject of trade rumors, for the moment the Mets are content that he is still with them and possibly playing the best ball of his career.

“I’ve never been that consistent and that’s a big part,” said Reyes about his success. “So hopefully I can continue to feel that way all season long. I am going to continue to do my job and help this team,” he said

But with David Wright and Ike Davis on the disabled list, and no closer to returning, and as the Mets embarked on a 10-game road trip to Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, there was concern for outfielder Carlos Beltran. He left the game in the second inning after sustaining a bruise to his lower leg.

The foul ball was hit off Braves starter Tim Hudson (4-5) who gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings, his first loss at Citi Field after going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA. Beltran would strike out and admitted there was pain. He is now listed as day-to-day with a right leg contusion.

“Anytime you get hit in the muscle it’s going to be sore,” said Collins. He was concerned because Jason Bay got the night off, and losing Beltran for any significant amount of time, minus Wright and Davis, would make the Mets that much more thinner in the lineup

“Maybe the best thing for me was to strike out because it was painful,” said Beltran. The Mets have a day off Monday and Beltran hopes to be in the lineup when they open a three-game series with Milwaukee. “I was worried because when I came down the stairs I could barely put my foot on the floor,” he said about going to the clubhouse, and he also experienced some dizziness before undergoing an X-Ray.

Collins can only hope Beltran is good to go. And the Mets, who would fly to Chicago and then bus to Milwaukee, because a runway is under construction at nearby LaGuardia Airport, were satisfied. It’s always good to hit the road after leaving home on a satisfactory note.

Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol,.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Brian Mccann, Bullpen, Chants, Eighth Inning, Francisco Rodriguez, Game Series, Jose Reyes, Knuckleball, Mets Team, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seventh Inning, Three Games, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 6, 2011

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Baseball Reacts To The Death of Bin Laden

PHILADELPHIA – There was the chant from the 45,000 fans, Sunday night at Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philadelphia. They repeated “U-S-A! U-S-A!, as the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies continued to play a baseball game on a Sunday evening in early May. The game on national television, ESPN, at this point in the season meant more for the Mets who were trying to snap another brief but significant three-game losing streak.

We got word in the press box, through the technology of social media, and the on the press box televisions, that Osama bin Laden had been killed as the Mets were at bat in the top of the ninth inning. Fans checked their phones, and media in the press box went to the CNN and Fox News web sites to verify what was going on.

It was that type of night in Philadelphia, and another memorable one for the Mets as it pertained to the events of September 11, 2001.  “Probably a night I will never forget,” said Mets’ pitcher Chris Young who was back in the training room after pitching seven strong innings.

“I got chills hearing that crowd,” he said, as once again, baseball and the New York Mets were a part of history. “It’s a historic night and a great victory for the United States,” said Young. He wasn’t on the Mets team, neither were any members of the current roster when baseball returned at Shea Stadium 10 days later after the attacks of September 11.

However, as news reverberated around the stadium, and into the ears of the players, coaches, and manager, the events of that night of September 21, 2001 were recalled. Once again baseball was being played but the events taking place were more important.  The Mets and Phillies, rivals in the National league east, just like the Mets and Braves in that game when baseball returned 10 years ago, were no longer rivals.

“This is a good win for us and obviously a huge win for America tonight,” said Mets manager Terry Collins in his post- game press conference with the media. Collins did not immediately talk about the game. The Mets would win in 14-innings, maybe not as dramatic to the Mike Piazza home run at Shea Stadium that beat the Braves that night, when baseball became the healing process for New York City and all of America.

Collins heard the chants. “You almost want to stop the game,” he said. “You almost want to just stop the game and have that girl come and sing another beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless America,’” he said. But the game did not stop. And up in the press box, the media continued to monitor how it all unfolded.

They, too, got caught up in what was now more than reporting about a baseball game. It was news again, historic, as America finally got retribution and took down the most sought after mass murderer of this era. Baseball was still being played but those who lost their lives in New York City, Washington D.C. and in Pennsylvania, the brave military and uniform service personnel, and all who have been a part of this mission, they, were the story this evening.

Baseball was being played as scheduled. The military mission to end this 10-year hunt of searching, capturing, or killing bin Laden on the same night was a coincidence. And the Mets happened to be around this story again, the New York impact where the events of September 11, 2001 were mostly captured.

This was no longer going to be a night when the Mets snapped their latest losing streak and not a story about the Mets avoiding a three-game sweep by the first place Phillies. It was about America, and all the victims, and heroes of that tragic day of September 11, 2001.

And when David Wright of the Mets scored on a double hit by Ronnie Paulino in the top of the 14th inning, for the go- ahead run, there probably weren’t that many still tuned into the game on ESPN. They were watching the network news feeds and determining where do we go from here?  Are the threats against America over?

Probably not we were saying up in the press box. We will still have to be scanned before going into the ballpark, and be conscious of threats to our security. The implications will always be a part of our lives due to that tragic day of 10-years ago.

And for one night again, baseball was a part of the story. Except this time we were not the victims and America stayed strong. Some of us at times wonder why at the ballpark, in particular every seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium, do we stand and sing the words, “God Bless America?”

It won’t be questioned again next week at Yankee Stadium, or this week at Citi Field. Baseball was significant for America 10-years ago and again Sunday night May 1, 2011. We cheered what was going on the playing field and more so for those who help keep us protected.

Most of all, we never forget the victims of September 11, 2011.

Email Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Baseball Game, Chills, Citizens Bank Ballpark, Cnn, Fox News, Game Losing Streak, Game Press, Mets Team, National League East, National Television, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Philadelphia Phillies, Phillies Baseball, Rich Mancuso, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on May 2, 2011

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Mets get another series opening win against Twins

New York – When they get to the dog days of August and the September stretch, the New York Mets will certainly know that winning the first game of a series was important, And it certainly looks like the Mets could have an interesting final two months of the season based on what has been happening as June nears a conclusion.

Friday evening at Citi Field, with starter Mike Pelfrey on the mound, New York improved to 16-9 in the first game of a series with their 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. They have won seven straight series openers, 11-2 at their home park.

But when Denard Span hit a game leadoff home run on a 0-1 pitch, the ball traveling and going over the 358 sign in left, Pelfrey made it look like it would be a struggle, from the onset for the Mets to get another opening series win.

“I stayed in there and kept trying to grind,” said Pelfrey (10-2) who got the win in six innings of work. He allowed two runs and six hits and did not walk a batter in getting his sixth win in nine starts at home.  “It was tough” said Pelfrey because that leadoff home run by Span, his third, may have been hard to overcome.

The Twins in a battle for first place with Detroit in the American League central, ahead by a half game coming in, are a tough team to retire. “That team is very good,” said Pelfrey who threw 117 pitches. “They made me work out there and fouled off a lot of pitches.”

But one thing about this Mets team is their resilient approach to come from behind. They did it again against Twins starter Kevin Slowey. They scored three runs in the fourth started by a Jose Reyes soft single, later scoring on a David Wright RBI double.

So Pelfrey had the lead, and the Mets once again played small ball and errorless baseball. Wright would also hit a solo home run in the sixth, off Slowey that gave the Mets their fifth run, his 13th of the season, and with two more runs batted in has 37 in his last 37 games.

“I’m in a good spot right now, I feel good,” said Wright who came into the game leading the National League in RBI.  “He seems very confident at the plate at this time and that’s a good sign for us,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel about the resurgence of Wright who hit his third home run at Citi Field this season.

And it is the small ball that has the Mets also feeling confident. They remained a half game behind first place Atlanta as they play game two of the series Saturday afternoon with ace Johan Santana on the mound.

“Small ball in a big ball park” said Manuel.  He added, as was the case in this game, “We won’t give them the momentum,” meaning his team which got their 11th come from behind win of the season will stay competitive when they don’t score first.

GAME NOTES FROM THE METS:   Carlos Beltran went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk as the designated hitter with St. Lucie of the Florida State League in his second rehabilitation assignment.   Outfielder Angel Pagan, day-to-day with a muscle pull said he feels better and may be in the lineup Saturday.

“Tomorrow I am going to swing and see what happens,” commented Pagan who said that rest, treatment and exercise were a part of the regiment the past two days. Pagan has missed the last two games and is rumored to be a player in a possible trade that would bring pitcher Cliff Lee to the Mets…

Ruben Tejada a natural shortstop, and at second, for the injured Luis Castillo is playing the position well and also connecting at the plate. He extended his hitting streak to nine games with a double in the fifth inning and the streak is the second longest for a rookie in the major leagues this season.

“He is playing with confidence and I am surprised about his ability to play second base,” said Manuel about his rookie that is part of a Mets home grown infield that includes Wright at third, Reyes at short, and Ike Davis at first….

Jason Bay may once again be seeing the ball better and his ability to drive in runs makes the Mets lineup that more potent, as was expected when he was picked up in the off-season. “He’s one of those guys that when he gets hot he gets going,” said Maunel. Bay had a run scoring double in that third inning and has driven in two in the last two games….

With three more scoreless innings of relief the Mets pen has pitched 21.1 scoreless innings dating back to the eighth inning on June 17th, allowing 15 hits, walking seven and striking out 25.  Francisco Rodriguez got his 17th save though giving up two singles in the ninth. He also is having some stiffness in his back which prompted Manuel to see him on the mound

Rodriguez admitted it has been something he has been dealing with and he recently took a anti-inflammatory shot. Manuel sees no reason for concern though speculation persists that the Rodriguez failure to get through an easy inning may be attributed to the stiffness.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under American League Central, Baseball, Conclusion, David Wright, Days Of August, Dog Days Of August, First Game, Friday Evening, Home Park, Jose Reyes, Lead, Mets Team, Mike Pelfrey, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Pitch, Pitches, Span, Straight Series, Struggle, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 26, 2010