If you look at the Mets first eight games of the season, Mickey Callaway has already been tested twice. The first test came in the first five games of the season against the Cardinals and the Phillies.
In those five games, Callaway had to show everyone he wasn’t Gabe Kapler or Aaron Boone. Put another way, he had to show us and his team he knew what he was doing. He showed that mettle which has escaped both Kapler and Boone thus far in his putting his team in their best position to win a game. More than that, he capably sat Brandon Nimmo after a big game and played Juan Lagares by justifying it to the media and his team rather than simply pointing to numbers. Yes, Callaway used the numbers to inform his decision, but he handled his situation capably with no griping from the fans or team.
The next test came much earlier for Callaway than it comes for most managers. That test was whether he had the ability to manage in a big series.
We can argue whether an April series is ever truly a big series. What we cannot argue is Callaway managed it like it was one, and his team responded in kind sweeping the Nationals and announcing this was a team to beat in the National League East.
Part of managing this like a big series was riding his bullpen arms hard. Jeurys Familia pitched 1.2 innings for the save, and he has pitched six innings over his first five appearances. Robert Gsellman pitched two games in the series, and he has made two two inning appearances over a four day span.
Seth Lugo was given the heaviest workload. Two days after pitching two innings, he was used for an inning to close out an 8-2 game. Three days later, he’s pitching three innings and picking up the win in a 12 inning game.
When it is a big series, and when you have short starts from both Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, you can certainly understand why Callaway rode his top guns the way he did. The Mets had a chance to make a statement in that series, and they did.
Now, the Mets are not sneaking up on anyone. We know they’re good, and the rest of baseball knows it now too. The question is how does Callaway handle it.
Does he continue to ask his top relievers to keep going to the well, or do we start to see more innings from Paul Sewald (likely to be demoted when Zack Wheeler is activated), or Jacob Rhame, who made a statement of his own closing out Sunday’s win? Really, how does this Mets team respond to success?
Do they continue looking like a team having fun grinding the salt and pepper shakers? Are they going to be alright with splitting playing time or staying on the bench for stretches?
We don’t know the answer to those questions yet. However, we do see Callaway is the type of manager who can deftly handle these and all questions this team is going to face. Hopefully, we will see Callaway pass this third test with flying colors like he did with the first two tests.
All night long, it appeared Mickey Callaway was content to play with fire. Tonight, he went too long with both Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman, and it burned the Mets. The question was whether it was going to cost the Mets the game.
Heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Mets had a 4-2 lead with both teams scoring runs off of big homers. The Nationals came in the first when Bryce Harper, who once literally could not hit Harvey, hit a monster two run homer.
In the third, Tanner Roark completely lost the strike zone issuing three straight two out walks. By the time he straightened himself out and threw a strike, Adrian Gonzalez wiould hit it for a grand slam giving the Mets a 4-2 lead:
— Today in MLB (@TodayintheMLB) April 9, 2018
The Nationals got a run back in the fourth against a laboring Harvey. Harvey would allow an RBI double to Pedro Severino, and he had his chance to get out of the inning quickly with a Roark comebacker. Harvey couldn’t make the play, but he would eventually get through the inning without allowing another run. Part of the reason why was Anthony Rendon just missed a grand slam off the bat.
In the top of the fifth, Asdrubal Cabrera got a run back with a solo shot giving the Mets a 5-3 lead.
Surprisingly with Harper leading off the fifth, Callaway stuck with Harvey. Well, Harper walked, and Matt Adams walked putting Harvey in immediate trouble. For a split second, it seemed like Harvey would get out of it unscathed when Howie Kendrick hit into the 6-6-3 double play. However, Trea Turner would deliver the RBI single to pull the Nationals within 5-4.
What is interesting is how things would be similar in the seventh inning.
After pitching a scoreless sixth, Callaway sent Gsellman out for a second inning even with Harper set to lead off the inning. Gsellman wanted not part of him and issued a four pitch walk which set the inning off on the wrong foot.
Soon, it was runners on first and second with two outs, and it looked like the Mets were going to possibly get out of the inning. Certainly, it seemed that way when a crossed up Todd Frazier was still able to get Harper out at third. However, this time it was Michael Taylor delivering the key two out RBI single to tie the game at 5-5.
With that, a couple of questionable Callaway decisions helped turn this game into a dogfight and a battle of the bullpens.
The Mets bullpen, Seth Lugo specifically, came up huge in the ninth inning. Harper led off the ninth because Anthony Rendon was picked off by Jerry Blevins. This also meant Blevins was getting pulled from the game because his spot in the order was due up.
Like the rest of the Mets staff, and frankly, MLB, Lugo didn’t want Harper, and he walked him. After throwing away a pickoff attempt and an Adams fly out to center, Harper was on third. In response, Callaway ordered the bases loaded putting the hands directly in Lugo’s hands. He responded with back-to-back strikeouts of Taylor and Severino to send the game into extra innings.
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 9, 2018
While Lugo was out there pitching great over three innings, the Nationals Sammy Solis was mowing down the Mets. Over his two innings of work, he struck out five Mets. With the way Solis was pitching, the turning point of this game was Brandon Kintzler coming into the game because the Mets have tattoed him in the first two games of this series.
It started again with a Juan Lagares bloop single to start the 12th inning. He moved to second on a Amed Rosario sacrifice bunt. The Nationals then walked Conforto to bring up Cespedes in a big spot. Cespedes would deliver with the game winning RBI single to give the Mets a 6-5 lead.
With the 6-5 lead, Callaway turned to Jacob Rhame. This was presumably because Jeurys Familia has been worked hard to start the year. After retiring two straight, he allowed a Wilmer Difo double before getting Adam Eaton out to end the game.
It’s amazing. The Mets went into Washington on a high after beating up on presumably lesser competition. Now, they are 7-1 after sweeping the Nationals in their home ballpark. Better yet, the Nationals had a chance in each game in this series, but the Mets just beat them because maybe, just maybe, the Mets are in fact the better team.
Game Notes: Opposing base stealers are a perfect 11/11 against d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.
In the Mets first two games against the Washington Nationals, they have let them know this isn’t going to be a repeat of the 2017 season. The Mets are back, and they are once again a force to be reckoned with.
Really, this series has been a time warp back to August 2015. There is Yoenis Cespedes hitting a big home run. Jacob deGrom out-pitched Stephen Strasburg. Every time the Nationals seem to get ahead, it seems like their bullpen lets them down while Jeurys Familia and the Mets bullpen steps up.
We’ve seen the Mets catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki do a masterful job pitch framing. Their pitch framing has led to called third strikes directly leading to Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon getting ejected in consecutive games. Yes, the Rendon one was suspect, but when you’re so frustrated, you’re flipping the bat at home plate, you create an opportunity for an over-eager umpire to eject you.
Sure, you can say the Mets are not beating the Nationals at their best. Daniel Murphy is on the disabled list. Arguably their best player to start the season, Adam Eaton, went on the disabled list. They’re going to miss Max Scherzer in this three game set.
Name all the caveats you want, the Mets went to Washington, and so far, they have taken the first two games of this and the season series. As a result, the Mets are off to their best start since 2006. That season, the Mets were the best team in baseball, and they ran away with the division.
With Mickey Callaway at the helm, that and much more is possible. That much has been proven with the Mets taking the first two games from the Nationals.
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.
With Michael Conforto coming off the disabled list, there was a question where he should hit in the Mets lineup. Traditionalists wanted to see him in more of a classic RBI spot in the lineup like third or clean-up. Sabermetrically inclined fans who saw Conforto as the best hitter on the team wanted him to hit second in the lineup.
His manager, Mickey Callaway, decided to bat Conforto leadoff. It was the right decision.
Recently, teams have ever so slowly been moving away from the classic leadoff hitter. It’s not longer about speed and stolen bases. Now, it’s about the ability to get on base, and it’s about the ability to drive in runs when the lineup flips over. Teams who have constructed their lineups as such have had success recently.
The 2015 Mets went to the World Series with Curtis Granderson (.259/.364/.457, 26 homers, 70 RBI) as their leadoff hitter. The following year, Callaway’s Indians went to the World Series with husky first baseman Carlos Santana (.259/.366/.498, 34 homers, 87 RBI) as their leadoff hitter. The reigning World Series MVP is George Springer (.283/.367/.522, 34 homers, 85 RBI). Each one of these players were top three on their team in OBP, homers, and RBI.
With few exceptions like Bobby Bonds and Brady Anderson‘s steroid fueled 50 homer 1996 season, these types of hitters typically hit in the middle of the lineup. Now, teams, especially analytically driven teams, have rethought that model, and they want these types of hitters atop the lineup.
Conforto is one of these types of hitters.
Before tearing his posterior casule, Conforto was hitting .279/.384/.555 with 27 homers and 68 RBI. Like Granderson, Santana, and Springer before him, he was top three on his team in OBP, homers, and RBI. Also like that trio, Conforto did his damage from the leadoff spot.
One thing that was lost with Conforo was how much he found a home in the leadoff spot. In the 68 games he had led off for the Mets last year, Conforto hit .279/.386/.555 with 20 homers and 45 RBI. That was good for a 149 wRC+. That’s higher than the 54 wRC+ he has batting second or the 137 wRC+ he has batting third.
Really, Conforto is at his best when he is leading off. That extends to leading off games where he hits .305/.397/.712 or leading off an inning where he hits .282/.373/.554.
In theory, Conforto should bat second. Given his ability and his 2017 stats, he’s the best hitter in the Mets lineup – even better than Yoenis Cespedes. However, part of his being the best hitter in the Mets lineup is his being in a spot in the lineup he is most comfortable and produces. So yes, Conforto should even hit leadoff whenever Brandon Nimmo cracks the lineup.
Given his skill-set, how successful teams have been using similar hitters atop the order, and how he thrives in that spot, Conforto should be the Mets leadoff hitter.
So far this season, Seth Lugo has been arguably the team’s most impressive pitcher. Yesterday, he made his season debut, and he completely dominated what may prove to be a decent Philadelphia Phillies lineup.
Lugo would need just 22 pitches to dispatch the Phillies. Of those 22 pitches, 19 were for strikes. Mind you, not all of those pitches were in the strike zone. It wouldn’t matter much as all of his pitches were moving and fooling Phillies batters who actually swung at six pitches outside of the strike zone. Ultimately, Lugo would strike out four of the six batters he faced, and the two who put the ball in play made weak contact.
The dominating performance has rekindled a debate over what exactly Lugo is.
On the one hand, Lugo has earned the right to be a part of this rotation, at least until Jason Vargas comes off the disabled list. We have also seen Lugo have success in the rotation. Remember, he and Robert Gsellman were key parts of the late season 2016 rotation which helped pitch the Mets to the first Wild Card. For his part, Lugo was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP as a starter that year.
With numbers like that, Lugo should be in the rotation. However, that success did not carry forward into last year with Lugo having an injury and his posting a 4.76 ERA in his 18 starts. The biggest culprit for that is Lugo has allowed opposing batters to hit .297/.350/.422 off of him the third time through the order.
Those inconsistency as a starter and the struggles the third time through the lineup are reminiscent of Andrew Miller.
For years, Miller wasn’t the relief ace he is now. Instead, he was a top pitching prospect who was one of the key pieces the Marlins obtained when they traded Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers. Only problem is Miller never pitched like the top pitching prospect he was. Instead, he struggled as a starter going 20-27 with a 5.70 ERA and a 1.732 WHIP.
Many of us don’t remember that because that was seven years ago. Since that time, he has moved to the bullpen full time where he has gone from intriguing arm to Yankees closer to ALCS MVP. Instead of the “bust” he was once known as, he is now known as perhaps the most feared reliever in all of baseball.
He doesn’t need that third or even fourth pitch to help him get through the lineup a third time. No, he just needs a devastating fastball/slider combination to mow through opposing lineups for one, two, or maybe even three innings.
Looking at Lugo’s career to this point and his performance last night, that’s who he is. He’s the National League, the right-handed, and the Mets version of Andrew Miller. And who better to unleash Lugo in the bullpen but Miller’s former pitching coach and current Mets manager Mickey Callaway
In the bullpen, we have seen Lugo be able to ramp up his fastball to the mid 90s. In a shorter relief appearance, he can unleash curveball after curveball after curveball. With each curveball he throws, he can make the opposing batters look quite foolish much like his first signature moment when he struck out Anthony Rizzo swinging on a curveball with so much movement it hit Rizzo’s foot.
Really, every time the Mets have looked for Lugo out of the bullpen he has just impressed. Even with Lugo doing everything he could do to prove he should be in the rotation, the Mets need him in the bullpen. After all, when you have a weapon as good as Miller in your bullpen, you make sure you use him in your bullpen.
It’s been a few years since Matt Harvey was Matt Harvey. However, there was hope we would see him again because now the Mets had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. That was not only the tandem who you wanted to help fix a pitcher, but they also believed in Harvey. Their belief was enough to convince the Mets not to consider trading him. That faith was something to help give the Mets fans faith in him and the team again in 2018.
For one night, we saw a glimpse of Harvey being a very good pitcher for the Mets yet again.
No, it was not quite vintage Harvey, but he was real good. Instead of pumping it up to the high 90s to near triple digits, he was living in the lower 90s. It didn’t matter because it was a good moving and well located fastball. Put another way, it was good enough to generate a number of swings and misses. Really, he had all of his pitches working for him including his change-up which looked like a real weapon for him.
However, in some sense this actually was vintage Harvey. Through his 86 pitches, he walked just one and struck out five. He limited the Phillies to just one hit and no runs. Like vintage Harvey, he got no run support.
For a while, it looked like it was going to be the Phillies who plated the first run. AJ Ramos was in immediate danger after a Cesar Hernandez bunt single and a Carlos Santana walk. Ramos bore down getting some luck on a hard hit liner hit by Aaron Altherr right at Todd Frazier, and he struck out Rhys Hoskins.
Callaway then went to Jerry Blevins in the sixth inning because that was the moment it called for his LOOGY to get the biggest out of the game. Blevins did just that by getting Odubel Herrera to pop out.
Having weathered the storm, the Mets offense began to go to work against Ben Lively. Before the sixth, Lively had actually matched Harvey zero for zero. However, in the bottom of the sixth, he would be done in by his control and his defense.
Lively put on Yoenis Cespedes by plunking him. Initially, it looked like Lively was going to stop a rally from building as he got Jay Bruce to hit what should have been a double play ball. The only problem for the Phillies is third baseman Scott Kingery stayed home at third. With no one there to field a throw, the only play was at first.
With the previous snow out, the Mets decided to skip Seth Lugo in the rotation. With him stretch out to start, and with him having no obvious chance to start over the upcoming week, he was in great position to pitch multiple innings. Lugo did just that by mowing down the Phillies. In his two innings of work, he struck out four of the six batters he faced. The two who did manage to make contact didn’t get it out of the infield.
That left Jeurys Familia his old familiar spot in the ninth inning looking to save a close Mets game. It wasn’t an easy one. A leadoff walk to Altherr quickly turned to first and third with one out. Kingery battled, but he eventually fouled out with Wilmer Flores making a nice play by the dugout. That led to a game ending ground out, and Familia saving the 2-0 win.
One of the things which really stood out in the game was the difference between the Mets and the Phillies choices for manager. Callaway seems in charge, and he has the Mets playing good baseball. More than that, his bullpen management tonight was phenomenal. Gabe Kapler has been a mess, the Phillies are failing to be in position to turn double plays, and the Phillies are now 1-3.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Callaway and the Mets when Harvey is pitching this well.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes got the start making him the last Mets position player to make a start this season. After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, he was thrown out in his stolen base attempt. Frazier had another good game going 2-4 with a run, double, and an RBI.
If you break it down, the Mets clearest path to the postseason is for the team to win at least 60% of Noah Syndergaard‘s and Jacob deGrom‘s starts. These are the Mets c0-aces, and they are the surest bet each time the Mets go through their rotation. Assuming they make 30 starts a piece, and the rest of the rotation pitches at least .500, the Mets will win at least 87 games, which should be good enough for one of the two Wild Card spots.
While wins are not pitcher dependent, there is usually a correlation between a pitcher pitching very well and his team having a chance to win the game. More often than not, if a pitcher is going to dominate the opposing offense, you are going to see your team win games. Overall, while you may not see Syndergaard or deGrom walk off the mound with the “W,” you may see the team have one once the game is over, and that’s what matters for this discussion.
We have seen both starters accomplish the feat. Back in 2015, the Mets were 20-1o (67%) in games started by deGrom. In 2016, the Mets were 19-12 (61%) in games started by Syndergaard. This isn’t to say it will happen. Rather, it suggests it is possible, and it looked all the more possible in their respective starts.
Still, for the formula to work, the rest of the rotation has to pull together to give the Mets at least a combined .500 record. With the injuries and struggles the past few seasons, that is far from a certainty.
Steven Matz‘s first start had to give you some reason for concern. Yes, he was squeezed by CB Bucknor, but the home plate umpire was not the reason why Matz was leaving pitches up in the hitting zone. Bucknor was just reason why Matz walked three and needed 89 pitches to get through just four innings.
Normally, you say Matz can only go up from here, but that would ignore how the Mets pitching performed in 2016 and 2017.
Where Matz failed, the Mets now need Matt Harvey to step up. Perhaps more than anyone Harvey has symbolized the Mets rise and fall and hopefully their rise again. There was hope with the Mets when Harvey returned in 2015. His ineffectiveness and further injury was a part of the 2017 despair.
Now, Harvey has a manager in Mickey Callaway and pitching coach in Dave Eiland, who believe in his talent. Neither wanted to see Harvery traded, and they gave him one of the top four spots in the starting rotation. Purportedly, they found and fixed the mechanical issue Dan Warthen has been talking about for years and had not been able to fix.
Is Harvey really fixed? We don’t know, and until Harvey puts together a significant number of good starts together, there will be doubters. Understandably, there may be doubters long after that.
What we do know is the Mets need to piece together wins in the games Syndergaard and deGrom do not pitch. Yesterday, Matz didn’t step up to prove he’s the next guy. Jason Vargas won’t pitch for a while, and there are questions after his second half last year. Seth Lugo won the job out of Spring Training, but there are issues about his long term viability in the rotation with his inability to go three times through the order.
That leaves Harvey, and that is why in many ways, the 2018 season truly begins today.
After how great Opening Day was for the Mets, you’d think the only change that would be made was starting Jacob deGrom. It would’ve been justified with the Cardinals starting another right-handed pitcher in Michael Wacha. That’s not what happened.
In Game 2 of the Mickey Callaway Era, we’re learning this is not a manager who is one for maintaining the status quo. Rather, this is not someone afraid to upset the Mets Home Run Apple card. He’s going to make an informed decision, and he is going to run with it even if it is unpopular.
And because of that, before first pitch today, he was quite unpopular.
Asdrubal Cabrera, the only Mets Opening Day starter to not get a hit was moved from cleanup to leadoff.
Callaway had a sound basis for his decisions. Wacha has reverse splits, and these players hit left-handed pitchers better. deGrom has a high fly ball rate, and Lagares is the best center fielder in baseball. And yet, despite all that, Callaway opened himself up for criticism.
Those critics were silenced immediately as Cabrera led off the bottom of the first with a double. He would eventually score on a Todd Frazier two RBI double.
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 31, 2018
On the day, Cabrera was 3-5 with a run, the aforementioned double, and an RBI. With that performance, he more than justified his manager’s decision.
Lagares and d’Arnaud would as well.
In the fourth, d’Arnaud would hit the first homer by a Mets player this year. Overall, he was 1-3 with a run, walk, homer, and an RBI.
Yoenis Cespedes would hit the second of the season with a fifth inning blast.
Lagares would also shut everyone up going 2-4 with a run.
Even with deGrom struggling to find it, he still allowed one run on four hits while allowing just one walk and striking out seven over 5.2 innings
The end result was the Mets dominating the Cardinals again. For the second time in as many days; the Mets chased the opposing starter, and they tacked on runs against the opposing bullpen.
For a second straight game, the Mets bullpen looked good.
Swarzak was the only issue on the day and not just because Matt Carpenter homered off of him to pull the Cardinals within 5-2. The real issue was Swarzak left the game with a strained oblique.
This led to Callaway, a former American League pitching coach, having to make a double switch. Yes, it may be overblown, but Willie Randolph did have an issue with it early in his career.
When Callaway made the switch, it was Jeurys Familia coming in for the four out save. It was a throwback to how he was used in 2015. Fortunately, Familia looks as great as he did then.
With that power sinker back in the high 90s, Familia is unhittable. He was unhittable striking out two and recording the save.
So again, Callaway pushed all the right buttons, and the Mets won another game. In the future, these decisions may not work out as well as it has in the first two games, overall, with Callaway making informed decisions like this, they will work out more times than not.
If that happens, Mets fans will give him the benefit of the doubt because the Mets will be winning games and heading to the postseason.
Game Notes: Callaway joins former Mets manager Joe Frazier to begin his managerial career by winning the first two games of a season. No Mets manager has won three straight games to begin their career.
Frazier’s first inning RBI double was the first of his career.
Much is made of the Mets having the best Opening Day record among all 30 Major League teams. That record expanded to 37-20 in what was Mickey Callaway‘s first game as the manager of the Mets. Considering the Mets have had more losing than winning seasons in their history, we know those good times do not keep rolling on throughout the season.
Looking throughout Mets history, as the excitement of Opening Day fades, so does the Mets record. In the 56 year history of the Mets, the team’s record in the second game of the season is 28-28 (.500).
The record does get a little dicier from there. In those previously famed 36 wins, the Mets have followed them with defeats in 20 of those games (.444).
When it comes to the Cardinals, the Mets are now 6-2 against them on Opening Day. The Mets are also 2-6 against them in the second game of the season.
When looking through the Mets managerial history, there have been 12 managers who made their debut with the Mets on Opening Day. Of those 12 managers only Joe Frazier debuted with the 1976 Mets by winning his first two games. That year, the Mets would finish 86-76. That would also be the last year the Mets would have a winning record until 1984.
Frazier and the Mets would start the 1977 season going 15-30, and Frazier’s managerial record would drop to 101-106. Of course, a large part of that was his losing both Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, both of who were traded the previous season in the “Midnight Massacre.”
As an aside, Frazier, Willie Randolph, and Yogi Berra are the managers to begin their Mets managerial careers on Opening Day to have a winning record in their first season as manager. Willie’s and Yogi’s Mets both lost the second game of the season. Unlike Frazier, both Willie and Yogi would take Mets team to the postseason in their second season as the Mets manager.
Of course, past is only prelude. It is not determinative of what will happen in the future. Just because the Mets won their opener, it does not mean the Mets have just a 44% or 50% chance of winning that game. Really, with the Mets sending Jacob deGrom to the mound, you’d have to believe the Mets odds of winning are much better than that.
Having watched the Mets win on Opening Day, it seemed like this was a different Mets team. It felt like this was a team that is going to surprise us this season and really set themselves apart from Mets teams from years past. That’s part of the fun of Opening Day. Who knows how long this feeling will last? Perhaps, we will find the answer later today.