Mets Game 1: Win Over Nationals

Mets 3 Nationals 1

Mets beat the reigning NL East Champion Nationals and sit at the top of the NL East for the first time since April 3, 2013.

Mets Game Notes

Bartolo Colon was his vintage self, spotting his fastball in all four quadrants of the strike zone and at varying speeds, mixing in an occasional offspeed pitch and perhaps a bit of voodoo to keep the Nats hitters off balance through six innings, allowing only three hits and one run — the one blemish being a solo homer by Bryce Harper.

Meantime, two-hundred-million-dollar man Max Scherzer went 7 1/3 innings, didn’t give up a hit until the sixth, and allowed no earned runs on four hits, but walked away as the loser. Sometimes life just ain’t fair.

If you’re wondering what I think of Max Scherzer’s mechanics, I don’t like them. They scare me, and always have. Knowing more now than I did seven years ago (and realizing just how little I know in the process), what I can say for sure is that his arm is often behind where it needs to be at foot strike — not always, but sometimes. He also could do a better job of “releasing” his elbow after releasing the baseball. If you want to know what that means, listen to this podcast.

Colon induced a significant number of swings and misses on not-so-fast fastballs above the letters. Pay attention, kids — you don’t necessarily need to be a flamethrower to get strikes up in the zone. You do, however, need to spot your fastball all over the strike zone, as Colon does, and be sure to get the high fastball just a few inches above the strike zone — too high to be a strike, but not so high that the batter lays off. It’s a spot worth practicing, just as you would practice hitting spots at the knees.

After hacking aggressively in spring training, it was surprising to see the Nats taking sub-90-MPH fastballs from Colon that caught a lot of the plate early in counts with runners in scoring position. Maybe it had something to do with the shadows, maybe it had to do with it being early in the season, or maybe it was nothing but me over-thinking it. It seemed to me, though, that Colon got away with a few pitches particularly in the first frame.

It didn’t take long for Daniel Murphy to make his first error of the year — it came on his first chance of 2015. After backing up on a routine grounder (bad form, kids), he nonchalantly tossed the ball wide of Lucas Duda — and considering how wide The Dude is, that’s quite an accomplishment. Normally I’m critical of Murphy for his poor skill set, but in this case, it was sheer laziness. What the heck? The one thing we all (including me) love about Murphy is his intensity and hustle. He’s going to make at least a dozen errors due to poor footwork and bad decisions, and now he’s going to give less than full effort? Unacceptable, especially in the first inning of the first game of the year. If the error is somehow due to his hamstring injury, then he shouldn’t have been in the game. In this new post-steroid era, where pitching dominates and only a handful of guys hit 30 HR in a season, mistakes cannot be made in the field. Don’t believe it? Go back and review how the Mets scored all of their runs — all unearned, due to errors by Ian Desmond.

I’ve read a number of books and stories about Ted Williams, and it seems to me that there are some parallels in Teddy Ballgame’s young life with Bryce Harper. In particular, the fact that everyone in baseball seems to either not like or be jealous of Harper. Williams, from what I understand, was similarly disliked in his early years because he was brash, outspoken, and more talented than everyone else and knew it.

Mets killer Wilson Ramos didn’t hurt the Mets with his bat in this ballgame, but he made several outstanding stops of worm-beaters in critical spots behind the dish.

It’s difficult to make any judgments on the Mets hitters on Opening Day against one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball, but following are a few observations.

Scherzer had success against Duda pitching up in the zone. It will be interesting to see if other opposing pitchers attack Duda similarly, because he does seem vulnerable above the belt. That said I was stunned to see Scherzer try to sneak a belt-high fastball past Duda on a 1-2 count with two out and men on second and third in the sixth. I thought for sure Scherzer would “climb the ladder” again and get Duda to chase something chest high or above. Maybe that was the plan and Scherzer simply made a mistake, as Duda whacked the pitch for the Mets’ first hit of the game and what turned out to be the difference.

Juan Lagares still swings mostly with his upper half, at times lunging and reaching and not getting enough pivot from the back foot and therefore missing out on power from the hips.

Wilmer Flores, like Duda, was getting beat up in the zone. But that’s OK, because Flores isn’t in the bigs for his bat, he’s in the lineup for his glove. Oh, wait …

In contrast to Duda and Flores, Travis d’Arnaud struggled mightily against pitches down in the zone, particularly sliders, but had fun tearing into a chest-high breaking ball that he sent to the center field wall for a triple and RBI.

David Wright in the two hole? I like it, considering he’s annually the Mets’ top OBP guy. Additionally, it could be argued that Wright — no matter how hard he swings — may never again be the slugger he was in his mid-twenties.

Was anyone else rooting for a Jerry BlevinsMatt den Dekker matchup?

Blevins did set the stage for 37-year-old Buddy Carlyle‘s first-ever Major League save. Carlyle became the closer when Jenrry Mejia suffered elbow stiffness while warming up in the bullpen. We’ll keep a close eye on this injury to see what develops.

The Nats starting lineup included Michael A. Taylor in the leadoff spot, Dan Uggla at second base, Yunel Escobar manning the hot corner, and (not Mary) Tyler Moore in left field. Not exactly what we expect to see from Washington, but that’s the best they can put out there right now. Good for the Mets to take advantage of DC’s undermanned troop.

The first six inning zipped right by in about an hour and a half, as Colon and Scherzer were extremely efficient after both drudged through somewhat perilous initial innings. Never mind the nonsensical new rules to speed up the game that will only shave maybe 10-15 minutes from a contest — you want a quick ballgame? It’ll happen with good pitching and umpires who call the entire strike zone. Make up your mind, MLB — do you want quick games with good pitching and fundamentals, or long games centered on offense? I’ll take the former every time.

As much as I like and respect both Nelson Figueroa and Jim Duquette, the SNY postgame just isn’t the same without Bob Ojeda. I only watched the postgame to get news on Mejia’s elbow. Otherwise, I’m sorry, there isn’t enough there for me to keep me from switching over to ESPN or Netflix after the 27th out.

Next Mets Game

Keith Hernandez and the Mets get the day off on Tuesday, then — if weather permits — play the Nationals again on Wednesday at 7:05 PM in the nation’s capital. Jacob deGrom faces Jordan Zimmerman.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. david April 7, 2015 at 12:42 am
    Initial comments after watching the first game of the year are that Colon and the art of pitching are underrated; the offense still looks anemic but Scherzer is top shelf, so I guess only Duda and TDA can handle him?; Sandy looks like a genius if Mejia ends up on the DL; and we won a game we could just as easily lost. Its this last point that matters the most to me, because it is what winning baseball teams do. They capitalize on the other team’s mistakes and make them pay.
    • Jeffy April 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm
      “Sandy looks like a genius if Mejia ends up on the DL”

      I don’t get it.

  2. argonbunnies April 7, 2015 at 3:49 am
    Lazy Murphy cropped up a lot last year. Honestly, in the second half of 2014, he just looked tired to me. Maybe his energizer bunny warranty expired after age 28.

    Lagares and Flores looked like their 2014 selves, rather than the under-control hitters we saw in spring training. I don’t know whether Juan is the Mets’ best long-term leadoff option or not, but he was in such a good groove this spring, I would have left him there as a form of “keep doing what you’re doing” encouragement. Oh well.

    Joe, your review of d’Arnaud is exactly what I saw last year. Punishes mistakes, but not hard to pitch to.

    Colon was great! More movement on his fastball than many guys have on their sliders, splitters, or change-ups. Also worked it at 88 and then threw it past guys at 92. Brilliant.

    Happy to have a win and to be catching the Nats at a bad time! A good start to build the Mets’ confidence could be huge. Let’s hope the Mets’ grounders find holes against Zimmermann and they can keep it going!

  3. argonbunnies April 7, 2015 at 3:57 am
    Scherzer does something unusual in his delivery — I don’t know what it is, but his upper back moves differently on the TV screen than any other pitcher. Is he staying upright longer, and snapping his torso down later? Something about the resulting arm path reminds me of Aaron Heilman. Some theorized that this weird motion was why the D’backs traded him. If they were gambling on an injury, they guessed wrong — he made it all the way to free agency without any arm troubles.

    As for Harper and Williams, I see more differences than similarities. Harper is a precocious athlete who wants to be a great baseball player; Williams was a precocious hitter who wanted to be a great hitter. By a few months into his MLB career, Harper was an above-average baseball player; by a few months into his MLB career, Williams was arguably the best hitter in the league. Harper occasionally says some immature things, gets called on it, and then says all the things you’re supposed to say to smooth it over. Williams occasionally said some immature things, got called on it, and decided to hate the fans and media for decades. Bryce handles criticism a LOT better than Ted did, but is nowhere NEAR the instant dominator Ted was. I do see your point on “disliked for their hype”, though, Joe.

  4. argonbunnies April 7, 2015 at 3:57 am
    comment on the Nats is awaiting approval
  5. DanB April 7, 2015 at 6:53 am
    Geez, last year I urged the Mets to hit Wright second and I was laughed at by readers. I see the potential for Beltran circa Houston all over again. Nobody hits and runs anymore so why not put someone there who can both get on base and drive in a run in the two hole? Wright might never be a great three hitter again but he can potentially be a great two.
  6. Jon C April 7, 2015 at 9:20 am
    Disagree on the word “lazy” for murphy, I’d go with “scared”. Watching him makes me feel like I’m 7 years old in little league again, I can almost feel the anxiety as the ball is coming at him. He’s so nervous that hes overthinking and “trying” to stay calm (hence looking lazy), rather than trusting his body to make that throw hes made thousands of times before.

    Desmond is a terrible defender and will be exposed even more without laroche there this year. I’m shocked that some mets fans wanted to trade for him.

  7. Walnutz15 April 7, 2015 at 9:53 am
    I actually think the (obviously front office mandated) lineup’s pretty interesting, and am curious to see how the vets shoulder the load – to start.

    While I don’t really care, either way – since none of us are ever going to be in a position to make out the lineup card – the concept is humorous, to see this penny-penching ownership team cultivating an environment with a $20MM 2-hitter.

    ……..however, I digress……..

    If the Granderson’s and Wright’s of the top of the order don’t produce, then I’m hoping the people who wrote this lineup out realize when it’s time to slot guys like Lagares into the leadoff position; or possibly a d’Arnaud out of the 2-hole. Again, I have a very hard time envisioning Collins having made any of these decisions on his own; and the repercussions of it not working out means a lot of flipping and flopping around the entire composition; with guys who might not be hitting, moving into the heart of the order.

    Who knows…….

    Otherwise, this was just as designed. Buddy Carlyle closing, Jenrry Mejia going from warming up in the pen during the 9th – straight to the doctor’s to get examined….lol.

    At least now we know why they were so active on the trade market last week.

    – Good to see Colon coming through. Really nice to see him keeping them in a ballgame; stacked right up against Scherzer, to boot. They needed that, out of the gates for sure.

    – Equally nice to see Duda turning right around on Scherzer’s fastball, sending one off into the gap…….capitalizing on Dan Murp…..err…..Uggla’s incompetence at 2nd base. What an embarrassment that was — not complaining!

    – If Familia’s able to keep the ball down in the zone, with that kind of movement and velocity —— then I’d have no issue whatsoever, counting upon him for at least the kind of year Mejia put forth last season. The trust I have in him equals that of the kind people seem to place in Mr. Jenrry.

    – Anyone else think den Dekker makes the catch on that d’Arnaud wall-ball? (I do.)

    RE: The bullpen as a “strength”

    I undertand citing “depth” every time a guy goes down, but at some point – you want reliable, proven back-end bullpen options – if you expect to contend for anything as a Wild Card squad, anyway.

    We can slot guys into roles, and hope it pans out – but when all it costs is money, I don’t see the harm in pursuit of concrete late-inning guys during the winter. That’s why it’s a bit insulting to have people tell you you’re acting “entitled” about wanting a legitimate back-end reliever on the winter market.

    But, hey – best of luck to Mejia (and Parnell and Black, for that matter)….and I really hope it works out for everyone.

    We’ll see where we’re at soon enough, especially if Thornton and Goeddel are being thrown into important innings.

  8. Colin April 7, 2015 at 12:10 pm
    Tough for desmond that he was charged with the error. My former favorite brave and current favorite nat, Dan Uggla, should have made that play and should have been charged with the error. My softball teams second baseman makes that play. But Duda made it hurt.

    Colon looked great. So did Torres. 161 more to go.

    So happy baseball is back.

  9. argonbunnies April 11, 2015 at 1:14 am
    *sigh* The Mets are still the Mets. The veteran third baseman makes a boneheaded play, the meek catcher goes with the rookie pitcher’s moronic preference to throw 7 straight fastballs away to the same hitter, and the Braves take the lead. The Mets proceed to get the tying run to the plate and then overswing through every hittable pitch they see. So much for “new year, new culture.” Let’s hope health and talent are on our side…
  10. argonbunnies April 12, 2015 at 5:30 pm
    Hey Joe, I’d love to hear a rant from you about the catcher’s role on a team after Warthen put all the onus on Montero for throwing 37 straight fastballs. “The ball’s in his hand. Even a mule can shake his head,” Warthen said, refusing to place any blame on d’Arnaud for how he called the pitches for his rookie pitcher.

    For what it’s worth, the reporters who wrote that Montero never threw his two-seamer and never shook off a sign clearly didn’t watch the game. Montero threw some two-seamers to Maybin, and he did shake at least twice, but it was just to move between fastball in and fastball away.