As the crappy Meat Loaf song goes, “two out of three aint bad.” To kick off the 2015 season taking two of three from the overwhelming division-favorite Nationals is pretty freakin’ spectacular if you ask this Mets fan. With an evening to catch our collective breath before the Mets begin 10 days in a row of National League East games, let’s review to see what we now know about this team that we didn’t in Port St. Lucie.
The Dark Knight is Back and The Starting Pitching Really is That Good
Although he dominated in spring training, we all needed to see Matt Harvey take the mound in a regular season game before we were satisfied that our ace is back. You cannot overstate how remarkable his performance was against the Nationals. It was a cold, damp April day, on the road, against not only the best team in the division, but against the flame throwing Stephen Strasburg. Harvey looked confident, his motion fluid, his movement crisp, his pitch selection impressive and his control as good as you could expect. The result was an efficient six innings of shutout ball with only four hits and a walk surrendered and nine strikeouts. The hometown fans are going to go nuts next week when he takes the hill at Citi Field. Harvey Day is back and that makes us all smile.
Despite all the second guessing of 42-year-old Bartolo Colon getting the opening day assignment, the rotund righty showed he’s still got it. His trademark control was as good as ever as Colon painted corners, moved the ball around in and out of the zone. His fastball had natural movement and a bit more zip than last season, throwing many pitches at around 92 mph. He deftly mixed in changeups and sliders and seemed to really work well with Travis d’Arnaud who masterfully frames pitches. Colon struck out eight and scattered three hits, a walk and one early run on a solo homer to Bryce Harper over six innings. Colon’s performance earned him an unlikely opening day win against the Nats and Max Scherzer.
While Jacob deGrom pitched well enough to win, the Mets couldn’t get theirs bat going in game two against Jordan Zimmermann. In six innings, deGrom allowed two earned runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out six and generally looked like the same pitcher who dominated the second half of 2015 with a zippy fastball, dynamic breaking balls and a sneaky changeup. It should be another great year for deGrom. Any time you get three good starting pitching performances in a series, you’ve got a chance to win the series. Against a lesser team, this might have been a clean sweep.
The Bullpen Is in Flux
With 2014 closer Jennry Mejia and setup man Vic Black joining 2013 closer Bobby Parnell and top lefty Josh Edgin on the disabled list, Manager Terry Collins is thankful he has deep stable of right handers that also includes hard throwing Jeurys Familia, long man Carlos Torres, unlikely late bloomer Buddy Carlyle and the promising youngster Rafael Montero. General Manager Sandy Alderson added to that depth with the very recent trades for lefties Jeremy Blevins and Alez Torres. Until at least one of Mejia, Black or Parnell rejoins the team, there will be a bullpen by committee approach to closing games.
Game one featured a combined three scoreless innings from Carlos Torres, Familia, Blevins and Carlyle. Montero took the ball for the closing of game two and he did not disappoint. The smooth righty threw two scoreless frames and looked comfortable in a relief role.
Game three did not go so smoothly for the pen. New addition Alex Torres gave up two runs on two walks and a hit and was only able to get one batter out. Carlyle and Carlos Torres combined to give us a scoreless 12/3 innings, Familia surrendered a ninth homerun. The Mets held on for a 6-3 win.
The Lineup Needs Tinkering
It’s not prudent to judge a lineup based on three road games against three young Cy Young Award candidates. Management and Collins have told the media they collaborated on the lineup. The new look lineup features Curtis Granderson batting leadoff, followed by David Wright, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer, Daniel Murphy, Tranis d’Arnaud, Juan Legares, and Wilmer Flores. Collins is going to have to continue tinkering with the line weekly until he finds the right combination.
It’s not an easy job for Collins. Depending on the health of the veterans and the improvement of the young players, he may require some assistance from Alderson via trades.
The Nats May Be Vulnerable
Based on their 96 wins in 2014 and their off-season acquisition of Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer, many sportswriters picked the Nats to win the National League pennant. However, with three starting position players on the DL they struggled to score runs against the Mets. One of the biggest difference makers in this series was the three infield errors by Ian Desmond. To think we were all champing at the bit to trade for the slugging shortstop.
A lot can change in a few weeks.