Monday, June 7, 2010

The home cookin' at Citi Field is tasty

There's been a lot of talk this season about how the Mets weren't filling Citi Field, how so many good seats were still available, how there was no buzz in the building.

Well, the Mets are doing all they can to change that, and they're doing it the best way possible -- by winning.

Because as tasty as the Shake Shack burgers are, what brings fans through the turnstiles are victories, or at least the knowledge that the home team has a good chance to win every game.

The weekend sweep of the Marlins improved the Mets' home record to 22-9, which means if the Mets continue to play that well at home, if you're considering getting tickets to a game, you can do so with the confidence that there is a 70 percent chance of you seeing a win instead of a loss.

Forty percent of the starting rotation is made up of pitchers who can be called stoppers: Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. R.A. Dickey improved to 3-0 with his win on Friday and gives the rotation a wrinkle that other teams haven't been able to solve.

Jon Niese made a bold statement Saturday in his return from the disabled list, throwing seven innings of six-hit ball, allowing one run and one walk with six strikeouts. He was seen in the dugout asking for one more inning, but Jerry Manuel did the right thing by getting him out with a big lead, allowing him to leave the game with confidence and ensuring that he's well-rested for his next start.

Should Niese continue to pitch as the team believes he can, that's four pitchers whom fans can feel good about paying to see. Hisanori Takahashi, meanwhile, has come down to earth, and while he could bounce back, it seems that if the Mets ever do go out and get another starter -- and there will be plenty available -- then Takahashi would be the candidate to return to the bullpen, where he began the season so successfully.

Manuel wondered whether the team hits better at home because it presses to put up numbers on the road, but perhaps it's because the lineup is just more comfortable hitting in Citi Field's wide-open spaces. Sure, it's not easy to hit home runs straightaway, but you can still hit it out -- just ask Rod Barajas.

Ike Davis has looked particularly comfortable, whether it's hitting a bomb to right field or racking up four hits, as he did Saturday. David Wright may have only hit two homers at Citi Field this season, but his bomb on Saturday showed that he still has plenty of pop down the line.

The major reason for the home-road disparity has been the pitching. Mets starters are allowing two more runs on the road than at Citi Field, while the offense is scoring 4.1 runs on the road, compared to 4.8 at home.

Maybe the pitchers are more comfortable at Citi knowing that the ballpark provides some protection against the long ball and are therefore more aggressive. Perhaps, with 2/3 of the season left to play, the numbers will begin to even out.

Whatever the reasons, right now Citi Field is a fun place to be. Sunday's win was particularly enjoyable, coming back from a 5-0 deficit, featuring a game-tying, three-run homer by Jeff Francoeur. Thanks also to Fredi Gonzalez for playing the infield back and allowing the GWDP (game-winning double play).

Runs may be scarce in the three-game series against the Padres, as Clayton "I have a train to catch" Richard duels against Pelfrey on Tuesday, Mat Latos faces Santana on Wednesday, and Jon "I was available in the off-season but the Mets weren't interested" Garland meets Dickey in game three Thursday.

The way the Mets have been going at home, those sound like wins.

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