In the Mets first game against the Nationals, the Mets let the Nationals and all of baseball know that at their best, this Mets team is as good as any in all of baseball. Now, that’s easy when you have Jacob deGrom on the mound, Michael Conforto returning to the lineup, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting homers. The next question and perhaps the real question is what happens when these factors weren’t present.
Brian Goodwin would draw a two out walk, and he’d quickly steal second base on the duo of Matz and Travis d’Arnaud. On a 3-2 with a chance to get out of the inning, Pedro Severino singled up the middle, and the speedy Goodwin dared challenge Lagares’ arm:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2018
That’s the Gold Glove Lagares who re-emerged last year. Whether or not his new swing and approach are for rule almost seems inconsequential when he plays center this way.
Another note here is in this game, you got to see all that d’Arnaud is as a catcher. When his pitchers aren’t even bothering to hold on base runners, much like Matz didn’t in this game, he’s not going to have a real shot to throw out anyone trying to steal a base. The Nationals know that better than anyone, and they stole five bases in five attempts off of him.
However, he offsets that deficiency in other ways. As we see in the Lagares play, he’s exceptional in fielding a throw, blocking the plate, and getting the tag down. Really, he’s the best catcher in baseball on the front. He’s also a very good pitch framer. That came into play on a day when Mets pitchers would record 10 strikeouts while walking just three.
That pitch framing led not to not just a third inning strikeout of Anthony Rendon, it also led to his ejection on what was a horrible overreaction by Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster:
Anthony Rendon got ejected for this? pic.twitter.com/2moGgjPOWK
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) April 7, 2018
That ejection was the Mets gain because Rendon is a great player who kills the Mets.
Even with Matz pitching well, the Mets still could not get ahead of Gio Gonzalez. That’s not unusual because he came into this game 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mets in his career. That left the Mets with little margin for error. That margin of error went away on two plays centered around Todd Frazier.
The first play was in the fourth inning. Jay Bruce hit a two out double to right. The much maligned Glenn Sherlock could have sent Frazier to have him challenge Bryce Harper‘s arm. It would make sense with two outs and Matz due up next. Instead, Sherlock stopped Frazier, and Matz struck out.
This decision was magnified in the fifth when Frazier threw a ball away on a Michael Taylor grounder. After a Goodwin sacrifice bunt, Severino plated him with an RBI single giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
What made the game interesting and the start of this season interesting was how the Mets immediately responded. In the sixth, Frazier atoned for his error by hitting an opposite field one out double that nearly went out. He’d then score on a d’Arnaud RBI single (the other aspect of his being a complete catcher) tying the game at 1-1. The Mets would have a chance to get the lead, but Jose Reyes could not deliver in a pinch hitting situation.
On came Hansel Robles.
To start the 2018 season, he has been a bit of a revelation. He went from send down to Triple-A to start the year to getting a big sixth inning opportunity against Harper. Mets fans expected him to melt down and point to the sky. Well, in his defense, it was a a really good pitch:
Great freeze frame on SNY of this Bryce Harper home run. Took a fastball that may have been off the outside edge and slammed it 107.7 mph + 405 ft the other way. pic.twitter.com/X577w2SJ3T
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 7, 2018
All this proved was Harper is a great player. What Robles proved from there was he could settle in, limit the damage, and give the Mets a chance. The Mets took that chance with some exceptional base running in the seventh.
Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single up the middle, and he’d fly around the bases on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double getting just ahead of the Severino tag. Not to be outdone, Cabrera would go from second to third on a Cespedes grounder to short. Knowing Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, the Cabrera, who can’t really run, read the situation perfectly and took the extra base.
After the pinch hitting Conforto was intentionally walked, Cabrera scored on a Frazier RBI groundout. The Mets finally had the lead at 3-2, and it was time to see if this so far improved Mes bullpen could hold the lead.
Rhame proved up to the task by getting former Met Matt Reynolds to groundout. What was surprising was where Rhame succeeded, Jerry Blevins didn’t as he issued a one out walk to Harper. This set the stage for Jeurys Familia.
In what was his biggest moment since he faced Conor Gillaspie in the 2016 Wild Card Game, Familia was in a position to get a big save. With him needing to get five outs, he was going to be tested. That should say tested in theory. The Nationals were no match for him, and as a result, the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory.
It’s April and the season is barely a week old. However, this is a different Mets team. They’re getting the most out of every ounce of their ability. They’re playing smart baseball. They’re fighting. They’re special. They’re showing that to the Nationals, and they may soon show it to the rest of baseball.
Game Notes: Mets pitching has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in six of the seven games they have played. The one time they did not record 10 strikeouts was in their sole loss of the season.