Game 4: Win
Mets 9 Marlins 3
The Marlins are a team that the Mets are supposed to beat easily. Joe Girardi’s squad is really a triple-A team that happens to be playing out a Major League schedule. And the Mets did what they were supposed to do: win easily.
Steve Trachsel had a fantastic outing, using his guile and veteran status to keep the young Marlins batters off balance and confused. He registered quite a few strikeouts looking on borderline strikes. The backward K’s look good in the boxscore, but in reality most were close enough to go either way, and when a 14-year vet is facing a green rookie, the vet gets the strike. It was nice to see that for a change; personally, I spent too many years watching guys like Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine get an extra two or three inches of “respect zone” against young Mets hitters. If Trachsel pitches like this all year, the Mets are a lock to finish in first.
One thing I’m really loving about the Mets hitters this year is their patience. Everyone in the lineup is taking pitches, working the count, and getting their pitch to hit. Carlos Beltran has been especially selective, and he’s hitting the ball hard all over the place. I’m guessing that the presence of Paul LoDuca and Carlos Delgado — two guys who always see a lot of pitches — have something to do with the change in approach from last year’s free-swinging Mets. David Wright, who showed remarkable patience last year, seems not even to start his at bat until after he has two strikes. Even Jose Reyes (his first-pitch leadoff double notwithstanding) is taking a bunch of pitches, to the point where he may very well walk 50 times this year. And if Jose walks 50 times, he may score 150 runs.
Perhaps as a consequence of his selectivity, Reyes is swinging the bat strong to start the year. In addition to the leadoff double — which reached the dead-center wall — he also mashed a line-drive homer into the rightfield seats. Hopefully the newfound power stroke won’t get to his head; I’d like to see a season of 8 HRs, 20 triples, 35 doubles.
The Mets looked great, all-around. The one negative was again Jorge Julio, who struggled in his one inning of work. In his Mets debut, I felt he was hit with a bit of bad luck: bad hops, some errors, some broken bat hits. Again, although the line score does not bare it out, Julio did not look that bad. Watching closely, though, it’s clear that his issue is between his ears more than anything. It’s true that bad luck seems to follow him; however, he does not deal with it well. Whereas great pitchers shrug off unusual hits, bad calls, and poorly timed errors, Julio lets these issues pile on to his shoulders. He gets visibly frustrated, loses his focus, and the ball goes all over the place. Last night, though, he did take a tiny step forward; with the bases loaded and a full count on one of the most dangerous hitters in the NL, Miguel Cabrera, Julio kept his focus and composure as Cabrera fouled off several good fastballs. Finally, Julio snapped off a nasty slider that caught Cabrera looking. Unfortunately, Mike Jacobs smashed a 2-run single on the next pitch, nullifying what would have been a scoreless, courageous inning. It could have been a huge step forward, instead it was a tiny step. If nothing else, this particular inning gives us a glimpse of what Julio is capable of producing out of the pen. He has truly electric stuff, and can dominate batters with it when his head is on straight and he’s focused on the task at hand. But when his concentration lulls, problems mount, and disasters occur. We can only hope that this inning is not a microcosm of Julio’s 2006 season, but rather an encouraging sign of better things to come as he matures.
One last note, concerning Mike Jacobs. I was a huge fan of Jacobs as a Mets minor leaguer, and never understood why they didn’t consider him as the catcher of the future. As much as I love having Delgado in the lineup, there’s a small part of me that wishes Jacobs wasn’t part of the deal, but was instead platooning behind the plate with LoDuca this year. So last night’s game was a special treat, as not only did the Mets win handily, but I got to see Jacobs drive in three runs, including one on a monstrous upper-deck shot off Trachsel. The guy exudes exceptional confidence and composure for a youngster; I really see him continuing to do big things in the future. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his HR and RBI numbers compare to Delgado’s this year — though he’ll likely strike out more, walk less, and hit for a lower average.