Home Is Not Sweet For The Mets

FLUSHING, NY – Maybe the first New York Mets home opener on a Friday since the 1995 season would make a difference. The 50th home opener, third at Citi Field, had the same result as the season closer last October, a loss to the Washington Nationals. The 6-2 loss to the Nationals Friday reminded many in the chilled sold out crowd of 41,075 that this could be a long season.

A reminder because the Mets did not hit, and pitch and that was so reminiscent of what was seen often at Citi Field in 2010.  The debut of new manager Terry Collins got off to a good start with a warm welcome from fans in pre-game introductions. The loudest ovations went to new pitcher Chris Young and for Hall of Fame Broadcaster Ralph Kiner who threw the ceremonial first pitch.

And starting pitcher R.A. Dickey (1-1) got a loud ovation. But that changed because his knuckleball was not effective after he split a nail on his index finger in the first inning.  Dickey was one of the bright spots for New York last season, but in his two starts he has walked eight batters in 11 innings including the five he issued against the Nationals.

“I’m not going to say the split nail led to the every walk,” commented Dickey. He walked a run in the fifth after the Nationals loaded the bases on three consecutive one-out singles. The fifth walk was a career high for Dickey. “It was just very tough to get the feel,” he said about the control issue due to the nail that he claims will not hinder his next start.

But Dickey was not the only issue the Mets encountered in their season debut at home. What bothered fans, as was so often the case last season was the Mets ineffective ability to drive in runs. Coming off a season opening 3-3 road trip, the Mets have lost three straight, the pitching staff has given up 27 runs, and in the last two games they are 1-17 with runners in scoring position including the ten they stranded Friday.

Frustrating for the fans in the early going, but not for the new manager who commented, “I am a long way from being frustrated.” But on opening day, an unusual 4pm start that lasted into evening, this was not what Collins would have wanted especially coming off an 11-0 loss to the Phillies on the last game of their trip the day before.

When Washington’s Ivan Rodriguez hit a two-run single to right that broke his season beginning 0-12 start, off Mets reliever Bobby Parnell that was followed by an RBI ground ball from Ian Desmond, the remaining crowd that had enough of the chill decided to call it a night. That was the deciding blow, the three-run eighth that ruined a season opener.

“We have to shake it off and do better than that,” said Collins. It is so early to be in a panic mode but if Collins does not see his team bounce back in the next few days then it could get frustrating. There was a point in the game when Collins and the fans loved a rejuvenated Jose Reyes. He dived to his left in the fifth inning and started an inning ending double play with the bases loaded that kept the game close.

Though few people give the Mets a chance to be competitive this season, a bright spot could be Reyes who may not be around by September. The financially strapped Mets may not be able to afford a new contract for their home grown shortstop and he could be traded depending on where the Mets are situated by late July.

But that is another issue for a later date. The focus will now be how resilient this team is with an early season losing streak of three games. And to forget about a home opener that took away optimism for any type of respectable season. The Mets fell to 31-19 in their home openers, 1-2 at Citi Field.

“We’ll score some runs and those guys will get on base,” said Collins about Angel Pagan, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Ike Davis who went a combined 2-for 15 at the plate. Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman (1-1) coming off Tommy John surgery in 2009 gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. The Nationals pen then closed the door with the committee role manager Jim Riggleman is using.

“We walked to many guys that put us in a hole,” said Collins.  He added his team will get better. His predecessor Jerry Manuel always said they would get better. But as every Mets fan knows, it did not get better.

A fresh start at Citi Field that did not get better in the later innings and when Dickey left the game it led to many questions for the next day. “Nobody in here is hitting the panic button,” said Dickey. “We are going to stay focused.”

But the question is will Mets fans stay focused if this first home stint of 2011 does not go their way?

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Batters, Hall Of Fame, Index Finger, Knuckleball, Loud Ovation, Mets Home Opener, New York Mets, Opening 3, Ovations, Ralph Kiner, Rich Mancuso, Road Trip, Runners, Season Debut, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Two Games, Warm Welcome, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 9, 2011

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Mancuso: Mets End A Bright First Half

Four days from now for the New York Mets to think about what is ahead for the remaining 75 games. At the All-Star break they are 48-40 and four games back of the second place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  They will take it, so will their fans.

An accomplishment because last season at the break the team was 42-45, in fourth place trailing first place Philadelphia by 6-1/2 in the standings. The Mets know they are contending, and know extra help is here with Carlos Beltran coming off the disabled list and making his season debut in San Francisco Thursday evening,

Though Beltran, out since surgery on his right knee, does present some type of dilemma for manager Jerry Manuel. Well sort of, four outfielders and three spots. Someone will have to sit among Jason Bay, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur.

The plan, according to Manuel is to bat Beltran fourth, a spot currently held by the rookie Ike Davis who will be dropped to the sixth spot. And you can’t sit Pagan down, the Mets most consistent hitter who got another three hits Sunday as New York took the final game over Atlanta salvaging their three-game series.

So what will be the situation when the Mets reconvene Thursday for an 11-game three- city trip that also takes them to Arizona and Los Angeles, a trip the Mets say is crucial as the second half begins. The Mets proved to be a good team at home, 30-16 but their fortunes away from Citi Field not as good at 18-24.

“We didn’t want to go onto the break the way we played the past few days,” commented Manuel after another pitching gem by his ace Johan Santana, which ended the first half on a positive note. New York looked lethargic at the plate the past two games against the division leading Braves, and their other pitcher with first half success, Mike Pelfrey, on Saturday once again could not get past the fifth inning.

But Beltran passed through the Mets clubhouse prior to the finale Sunday, afternoon and Santana gave the team an added lift, more so optimism for a good second half. Nothing but a spot for October baseball is what the Mets want. And they believe with Beltran healthy, and the usual second half success of Santana will get them there.

Francoeur was told by Manuel that he would most likely be regulated as a bench player. Occasionally he will get the start in right, that is, if Pagan hits a tailspin and all indications are that’s not going to happen. Pagan is healthy and shows continually, he is a key offensive cog at the beginning of the lineup.

“It’s not my decision,: commented Pagan about the lineup decisions Manuel has to make, He finished the first half with a string of four consecutive multi-hit games and batted .484 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs since July 4th in a seven game span.

Pagan added he would like to stay in the lineup. Manuel only indicated that Beltran will get the start and Francoeur will probably sit for the moment, but there is every reason to believe that there will be a platoon of Francoeur and Pagan. Jason Bay, who sat down Sunday, on his bobble head give-away day has been an offensive disappointment but his multi-million dollar contract leaves him in the lineup.

It is no problem for Francouer, He will go with the plan, and the return of Beltran will not disrupt a Mets clubhouse that has good chemistry and has looked forward to his bat back in the lineup.  You heard the comments from the players and realize how important it is to win.

“We’re not satisfied to be three or four games out of first place,” said David Wright who entered Sunday tied for the National League lead in runs batted in with 65 and starts at third base for the NL all stars.  “Our goal is to win the division. There is need for improvement.”

Santana has improved and has thrown shutout baseball the last two starts. The fastball is back and it is helping his other pitches. Now the Mets need to get Pelfrey back into form and with R.A. Dickey and Jonathan Niese having good first halves, perhaps GM Omar Minaya will try and get another starter,  to, compliment them before the trading deadline.

There is the possible return of pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine from the disabled list, one or the other could be going to the pen. It has been the pitching that has put the Mets in this position of contention and they would like it to stay that way.

With or without Francouer in the lineup, they know what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months. Jose Reyes also is a part of the plan and needs to stay healthy as that catalyst in the lineup.

“Obviously it’s a good problem we have, it’s a good thing to see,” said Francoeur about Beltran. A good problem for this clubhouse if indeed, Beltran stays healthy and shows signs of once again being the run producer that the Mets have lacked since April.

Francoeur said he will do his part when he is in the lineup to make sure “this team wins.”  So do the rest of these New York Mets who feel they are on the footsteps of their first postseason since 2006.

Beltran won’t hurt their chances and neither would a platoon of Pagan and Francoeur. Now if Bay can finally find his home run swing the way Santana rediscovered his fastball.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Carlos Beltran, City Trip, Fifth Inning, Final Game, Fortunes, Four Games, Game Series, Jason Bay, Jeff Francoeur, Johan Santana, Mancuso, Mets Clubhouse, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nl East, Outfielders, Reconvene, Rich Mancuso, Season Debut, Top Story, Two Games

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 12, 2010