THE New York Mets spent money in the offseason to tighten up a bullpen which cost them a trip to the playoffs for each of the past two seasons.
On Monday, it looked like money well spent as JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez shut down the Cincinatti Reds to give Mets fans hope that ’09 may just be their year.
The Amazins continued their Opening Day tradition of success by edging a tight pitching duel in Cincinatti 2-1, winning their fourth consecutive Opening Day outing to improve on their league-best record.
Santana pitched 5 2/3 innings of three-hit ball to record his second straight first day victory, and Daniel Murphy went deep for the Mets as they got their season underway on the right note at the Great American Ballpark.
Shaun Green recorded four consecutive outs in his 1 1/3 inning of work and new acquisition JJ Putz worked around a one-out walk to Chris Dickerson to get the ball to closer Francisco Rodriguez who recorded his first save in orange and blue.
The Mets loaded the bases in the 4th inning on a walk, bloop single and intentional walk, but Harang got Santana to fly out to centre field on the eighth pitch of the at bat – the 85th of the game – to end the inning and keep the score tied.
The Reds got their first hit of the ballgame in the bottom of the 4th inning when Jay Bruce drove a low two-out pitch down and away off the centre field wall for a stand-up double.
Daniel Murphy hit the Mets’ first home run of 2009, driving a 3-2 pitch to right centre field after fouling off a pitch up and away to stay alive the previous offering.
The Mets almost added a second run shortly after, when David Wight and Carlos Delgado hit back-to-back bloops to shallow centre field to bring Carlos Beltran to the plate.
Beltran singled to right field, but Wright got a bad jump from second base and Jay Bruce threw him out on a two-hopper despite bobbling the transfer.
Aaron Harang gave up one run – the solo shot to Murphy – on seven hits, walking three and striking out a pair on 114 pitches through five innings of work.
Harang’s replacement Daniel Ray Herrara fell into immidiate difficulty in the top of the 6th inning.
After Brain Schneider grounded out to lead off the inning, Herrara gave up a double to Luis Castillo and then walked Santana and Reyes.
With the bases loaded, Murphy lined a grounder down the first base line. Joey Votto knocked it down to get the out, but Castillo scored easily from third to make it 2-0.
The Reds started to get something going in the home half of the 6th inning. Darnell McDonald led off the inning with a broken-bat single to left field and Joey Votto singled to right.
Both runners advanced on Church’s throwing error to third base, and only Santana backing up Wright at third stopped McDonald from scoring.
Brandon Phillips hit a 2-2 92mph fastball to left field to drive home McDonald with a sac fly to cut the lead in half, but leftie Jay Bruce popped out to Wright to keep the tying run at second.
That was the final batter Santana would face as Shaun Green came out of the pen to get Edwin Encarnacion to line out to Murphy in left.
Santana threw 99 pitches, 62 for strikes, and he gave up just the one run on three hits and four walks, striking out seven.
Shaun Green pitched a perfect 7th inning for the Mets, getting three ground balls and former Met David Weathers matched him pitch for pitch, getting Castillo, pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson and Reyes on ground ball outs on eight pitches.
JJ Putz walked Chris Dickerson with one out in the eighth, but he got sothpaw Joey Votto and All Star slugger Brandon Phillips to end the threat and keep the one-run lead intact.
K-Rod got Jay Brice on a soft tapper back to themound, Encarnacion on a pop-up and Hernandez to strike out swinging.
Other notes: Ryan Church and Carlos Delgado both went 2/4 and David Wright went 1/3 with two walks. Jose Reyes also stole his first base, taking second in the 1st inning against Aaron Harang.
WITH just six days to go until Opening Day, the New York Mets fine-tuned their preparations with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Oliver Perez gave up just one run on 93 pitches and Fernando Tatis won the game for the Mets in the bottom of the 8th inning in a game dominated by the starting pitchers.
The Mets approached Monday night’s exhibition game against the Orioles as if it was a regular season matchup, with Jose Reyes leading off the game for Jerry Manuel’s side, Daniel Murphy batting in the two hole and Luis Castillo batting eighth as he will when the season starts in ernest on April 6.
Perez threw well in six-and-two-thirds innings of one-run ball, JJ Putz recorded four outs and hard-throwing Bobby Parnell came in to close the game with a 6-4-3 double play.
With the game tied at 1-1, Fernando Tatis led off the bottom of the 8th inning with a triple to centre field.
Ryan freel, who had just moved from left field to centre, played the ball off the wall but rainbowed his throw into the infield, prompting Tatis to leg out a three-bagger.
Shortstop Chris Gomez then made a bad throw trying to get the out at third, one-hopping the ball towards Melvin Mora and off of Tatis’ leg, allowing him to score. Gomez was officially charged with the error, although it could easily have been Freel’s.
Good news for the Mets was that Perez’s fastball touched 91mph – something it failed to do in his previous start on his return from the World Baseball Classic – and he came out throwing strikes and locating his pitches.
After performing below par against the Tigers on Wednesday, Perez looked sharper than in his last start, despite never reaching the 93- or 94mph on the gun the pitching coaches were accustomed to in 2008.
He gave up four hits and one walk and struck out three batters through 6.2 innings of work and he got 9 of his 20 outs on groundballs, although four of these were the first four batters he faced.
Adam Jones gave the Os the lead on a 2-out, 3-2 home run to straightaway centre field on a high 80s knee-high fastball in the 3rd inning.
Luke Scott almost doubled the Os lead in the 4th inning, but the leftie pulled Perez’s hanging slider narrowly foul down the first base line.
But the Mets tied the game in the bottom of the frame on Daniel Murphy’s first home run of the spring – a solo shot off of Alfredo Simon.
This was all of the scoring until the 8th inning when Tatis – who came into the game an inning earlier as part of a double switch – lit up the basepaths after going down and away to rip a fastball to the wall.
Elsewhere for the Mets, David Wright went 1/3 with a single, a walk and his first stolen base of the year and Jose Reyes went 0-4. Reyes will likely bat leadoff for most of the year and had 15 RBI from 38 at bats this year prior to today’s game.
Murphy also hit the ball hard with a home run, double off the centre-field wall and deep fly out to the warning track among his 2/4 day.
The Mets will now travel to play the Marlins tomorrow and the Cardinals on Wednesday before hosting their final 2009 Spring Training game in Port St Lucie against the Os on Thursday lunchtime.
From the east coast of Florida, the Amazings will then play back-to-back exhibition games at Citi Field against the Red Sox, before taking to the road to open their campaign in Cincinatti.
WHAT can the Mets expect from Daniel Murphy this season?
Having watched him throughout the early days of Spring Training, you can see that Manuel is priming him to play everyday. He is reading the ball well off the bat in left field and taking good routes to flyballs hit his way. His swing looks level and compact and he is running the basepaths well, going first to third when the chance arrives. He’s also looking to shoot it the other way and I can see him being a mini version of a five tool guy because he has average pop and speed and he hits for average.
Let’s see what different sites have to say about his chances of success at Citi Field…
441 ABs, 10HRs, 64rbi, 8SB, 41 BBs, 72Ks, .270 avg
221 ABs, 4HR, 28rbi, 2SB, 29BBs, 45Ks, .287 avg
11HR, 63rbi, 3SB, .283 avg
456 ABs, 14HR, 73rbi, 14SB, 53BBs, 67Ks, .294 avg
The uncertainty surrounding his playing time is perfectly encapsulated here, with projections showing anything from 221 at bats to more than twice that number and 139 games played.
At the top end of the projections is Fan Graphs (Bill James) who sees him as a regular left fielder. With more at bats comes more counting stats, and this site suggests he is right on the cusp of a 15-15 season, something which the ESPN site predicts if he can get regular playing time.
The ESPN report, although not predicting a set amount of plate appearances, suggests similar numbers to the Baseball Projections website but with less speed, while Baseball Guru believes Murphy will be the left-handed bat in a platoon.
So where do I sit within these numbers?
Well unsurprisingly, it’s on the fence, in the middle of them all. I think he will beat out Tatis for the job in left and that his minor league ABs at 3B and 2B will prove to be irrelevant. I think 440 at bats is pretty realistic and 12 home runs isn’t too much of a reach at all considering he has average power.
He is only 23 years old, so there is still room to grow and I expect more contact and fewer whiffs than many expect. I read on Baseball Prospectus that he is not a .300 hitter and I agree with that. But assuming his walk rate is similar to what he has proved at a lower level there is nothing to say he won’t swipe a dozen bags.
Fan Graph’s .294 seems a little high for me, but he’s only a few big league adjustments from that being the back end of his upside. If you scale down Fan Graph’s projections a few games, I don’t think it’s a million miles from the truth.
As for Baseball Guru – well, that seems to be a million miles from everything. As a Mets fan, I hope they’re proved wrong.
WITH 16 Mets at the World Baseball Classic, New York’s second-string team lost 7-5 against the Washington Nationals at Tradition Field in Port St Lucie on Saturday.
Home runs from Leonard Davis and Joel Guzman put the Nationals on top, providing them with a lead which would prove decisive against a plucky Mets lineup that fought back to within a single run.
Dillon Gee pitched a pair of hitless innnings for the Mets, but the Nationals scored in the top of the third, fourth and six innings to give them an advantage they would never relenquish.
The Mets loaded the bases in the 1st inning against left-handed starter Scott Olsen – a man who is guaranteed a spot in the Nationals’ rotation – but 20-year-old Eric Campbell saw his line drive end up in the glove of centre fielder Corey Patterson.
Other than a late rally in the bottom of the 7th inning, this would be the closest the Mets would come to taking the lead.
For the Mets, Gee did the little things right. He looked comfortable covering first base and he pitched well inside to lefties.
He did fall behind hitters 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1, but his changeup looked sharp and his low 70s curveball was good. His fastball didn’t break into the 90s, but it was good to see Gee back on the mound after a rough first outing.
The Mets should be encouraged by Gee and even though he will go back down to AA in a few weeks or so, he showed a lot of promise.
Casey Fossum also showed he was fighting for a spot in the bullpen and Sean Green worked out of a bases loaded jam in a similar position where he could be called upon in the coming season.
With the bat, Daniel Murphy had a pair of walks and a double and Cory Sullivan had three base hits.
Importantly for the Mets, they ran the bases well and were very aggresive – Eric Campbell going first to third on a single and Rob Mackowiak tagging up on a shallow flayball to left field were just two examples.
In Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest, the Nationals’ Ray Gonzalez led off the 3rd inning with a single and he advanced to
third after sidearmer Roy Meritt pulled 1B Green off the bag while fielding
Scott Olsen’s bunt.
Gonzalez then scored on 2B Anderson Hernandez’s single back up the
middle before another sidearm pitcher Darren O’Day walked Ryan
Zimmerman on four straight balls.
Joel Guzman drove in Olsen to make it 2-0 with a base hit to left and
Hernandez crossed the plate for 3-0 on Corey Patterson’s groundout.
The Mets cut the defecit to 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning.
Murphy led off the inning with a ground rule double and advanced to
third on Evans’ groundout to second. Kielty’s double to left scored
Evans and Kielty then beat the throw home from left on Castro’s rbi
Cory Sullivan put men on the corners with a hard-hit ball to right field, but Flores ended the inning with a flyout to centre.
O’Day gave up a solo home run to Leonard Davis to lead off the 4th
inning to make it 4-2 and Alberto Gonzalez’s rbi single in the 6th
inning scored Luke Muntz from third.
Casey Fossum had gone three-up three-down in the top half of the 5th
but fell into a little trouble in his second inning of work, giving up
a pair of hits and walking a batter.
Fossim’s velocity was up in the low 90s and he also gave batters a look
at his curveball and change which both looked effective when he was in
a pitchers’ count.
Andy Green hit a two-out 1-0 fastball into the seats behind the left
field wall to reduce the arrears to 5-3, but Joel Guzman crushed a high
Valerio de los Santos fastball to re-establish a three-run lead.
Pinch-hitting Rob Mackowiak hit a one-out triple off the left field
wall in the bottom of the 7th inning and scored on Robinson Cancel’s
sac fly for the Mets to make it 6-4.
Eric Campbell then reached on 3B Castillo’s error and he went
first-to-third on Sullivan’s single. With runners on the corners,
17-year-old Flores lined an rbi double past the outstretched Castillo
down the third-base line to make it 6-5
But right-handed LF Jorge Padilla led off the 8th inning with a double going the other way against Sean Green and Padilla hustled home for the final run of the game from third when Gustavo Molina’s bloop single dropped in front of Murphy in left field.