Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your first-place New York Mets

Hard to believe that less than two weeks ago, the SNY broadcast team was taking calls from despondent Mets fans, panicking at the Mets losing their third straight series to start the season.

As I write this, the Mets are in a virtual tie with the Phillies for first place in the NL East, no games behind but trailing Philly by a mere 8 percentage points. That could change in the next couple of hours, as the Phils currently trail the Giants in San Francisco by a run.

The doubleheader sweep showcased the good, the bad and some ugly defense by the Dodgers, but for the Mets it was almost all good.

Johan Santana gutted out six innings on a day in which the bullpen needed to be conserved as much as possible. After needing 52 pitches to get through the first two (scoreless) innings, Santana settled down and left the afternoon opener with a 2-0 lead. The second of the two runs came on Jason Bay's first homer of the season.

The Mets tacked on two more in the seventh on a two-run single by Luis Castillo.

At some point, Mets fans and a certain blustery radio host will realize that Castillo is the least of the Mets' problems, and is, in fact, probably one of their better assets.

Two scoreless innings by Fernando Nieve and a two-strikeout ninth by Pedro Feliciano closed out the 4-0 win.

We saw the bad Ollie in game two as Oliver Perez gave up a 3-0, first-inning lead (featuring an RBI triple by the percolating Bay), but we then enjoyed the greatness that is Hisanori Takahashi.

A strikeout machine despite the fact that he rarely breaks 90, Takahashi threw 3 1/3 innings and struck out five, allowing just one run -- and allowing the Mets to regain the lead. (Ron Darling said it best; Takahaski pitches with no fear.)

Three scored in the fifth on a single by David Wright and a two-run double by Ike Davis, and the Mets piled on four more in the sixth -- the first on a throwing error on a force at home by Jamey Carroll (playing there after Rafael Furcal's hamstring injury), and the next three on a bases-clearing triple by Mr. Wright.

Wright was 3-for-3 with four RBI in game two and was 4-for-7 on the night with two walks. He looked like the Wright of old, but really, did anyone really not expect Wright to get back on track? The guy is a streaky hitter, and now he's heating up -- just in time for the Phillies series. Nice.

And the Mets' pitchers for that Philly series? Pelfrey, Niese, Santana. Feeling pretty confident with that trio.

The Dodgers have looked as bad as the Cubs and Braves did, and while all three teams have indeed played poorly, credit the Mets for playing terrific baseball, with solid defense (nice catch by Bay!) smart baserunning (Henry Blanco going first to third!), improved hitting and mostly excellent pitching.

We'll see how John Maine comes back from his injury-shortened previous start, but if he can come up strong, the Mets will be looking at a second straight series sweep and a dominant 9-1 homestand.

Dominant? Terrific? These are the words we're using to describe a Mets team that so many wanted to bury after just two weeks of play. There's a lesson in there somewhere.


On a side note, Ryan Howard is a wonderful slugger but no way is he worth $25 million a year. Adrian Gonzalez is a better all-around player -- does he get $27 million per? That's more than A-Rod. And what about Pujols? $30 million a year? Insane.