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Alonso And McNeil Power Mets

When the Mets bucked conventional wisdom and put Pete Alonso, the rationale was this was a tight National League East, and the Mets needed every possible game they can get. Well, in the second game of the season, Alonso helped them win a divisional game against the Nationals.

It began right away with his hitting a single in the top of the first to set up a three run first inning rally. That rally also featured a Wilson Ramos double and a Jeff McNeil triple (more on him later).

That three inning first would become a 4-1 lead when Alonso annihilated a Stephen Strasburg pitch for a double.

This Strasburg start should have the Nationals very worried. Any hope last season was a blip for him were quickly dashed. According to Brooks Baseball, he was throwing 93 MPH. Remember, this is a guy who used to be able to get it up to 100 MPH. Now, he looks ordinary, and the Mets made him look as such.

Strasburg pitched six innings allowing four earned on seven hits. His eight strikeouts were good, but it’s not going to do him as much good if he’s going to be this hittable.

Despite Strasburg’s struggles, he got the no decision.

The main reason was Noah Syndergaard wasn’t sharp. Like Strasburg, he allowed four earned over six. However, Syndergaard’s game shouldn’t elicit as much concern for the Mets.

For starters, he has never pitched well at Nationals Park. In five starts, he’s now 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA. With Syndergaard’s velocity and location there, you could chalk this up to the quirks of a pitcher just not pitching well at a particular park.

The other issue was Mickey Callaway pushing him too far.

Syndergaard looked done after getting a huge strikeout of Anthony Rendon to end the fifth.

At the time, it was 4-3, and Syndergaard was at 86 pitches. He was battling most of the game, and Victor Robles was set to lead off the inning.

Robles would hit a ball through the shift, and he turned it into a double with Michael Conforto not getting over in time. The Nationals would then get him over and in with a Kurt Suzuki sacrifice fly.

The game was 4-4 entering the bottom of the eighth, and as we would soon learn, the once again retooled Nationals bullpen stinks with Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Grace, and Wander Suero combining to give up seven runs over the final two innings.

The go-ahead hit was a J.D. Davis opposite field bases loaded single to give the Mets a 6-4 lead. Alonso would soon be heard from again hitting a two run double giving the Mets an 8-4 lead.

On the day, Alonso was 3-4 with a run, two doubles, and two RBI. The doubles were smoked. At the bag, he had a pick a few balls out of the dirt. Overall, this was a great game for him, and it was the exact type of game the Mets envisioned when they put him on the Opening Day roster.

As good as Alonso was, McNeil might’ve been even better. In addition to the first inning RBI triple, he had a ninth inning RBI double. On the day, he was 4-5 with two runs, a double, triple, and two RBI.

His ninth inning double made it 9-4, and Dominic Smith‘s two RBI single made it 11-4. With respect to Smith, he’s also had quite the start to the season. In his limited duty, he’s 1-2 with a walk and two RBI while serving as Alonso’s defensive replacement.

Unfortunately, this was not a laugher as the Mets bullpen was not quite up to the task with Justin Wilson being the only set-up man to do the job with a scoreless seventh.

In the eighth, after a Davis error, the Nationals loaded the bases with two outs against Jeurys Familia. Callaway didn’t risk the inning or game getting out of hand, and he brought on Seth Lugo.

Matt Adams swung at the first pitch and gave it a ride, but it would fall short with Conforto catching it near the wall.

With the Mets having a seven run lead, Callaway opted to not waste any more relievers, and he stuck with Lugo. For whatever reason Lugo didn’t have it.

As the Nationals rallied, Callaway wasn’t as quick to respond and the relievers weren’t getting loose quick soon enough.

Rendon was hit by a pitch to force in a run, and then Ryan Zimmerman hit a bases clearing double to pull the Nationals within 11-8. Even with there being two outs, Callaway had no choice but to go to Edwin Diaz, who needed just one pitch to record the save.

Behind the win and the success of the Mets duo of Alonso and McNeil (the latest Mets bromance) was a poor game by Callaway.

He started Davis over Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton, two superior defenders who also have had better offensive production in the majors. Davis responded with a 1-5 day with a big error.

Davis did deliver the go-ahead RBI single. On the play, the slow footed Ramos was at third. Instead of using Broxton to pinch run, he stuck with Ramos. The Mets got away with it.

Finally, while starting Lugo in the ninth was the right move, Callaway was probably too slow to react, especially with Lugo’s pitches not being sharp.

Still, even with the Callaway lapses, the Mets won mostly because Alonso and McNeil were great. The Mets have taken the first series from the Nationals and are now in a position to sweep the fist series of the year.

Game Notes: Wilson picked up the win in his first appearance as a Met. Alonso joined Conforto, Kazuo Matsui, Nick Evans, and Preston Wilson as Mets who began their careers with three hits and two extra base hits over their first two Major League games (hat tip Mathew Brownstein).

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