Mets Game 1: Win Over Reds

Mets 2 Reds 1

Everything went EXACTLY according to plan, as the Mets edged the Reds 2-1 in the 2009 opener.

Johan Santana pitched 5 innings of shutout ball before allowing a run in the sixth and handing the ball to new middleman Sean Green. Green retired all four batters he faced to bridge the gap to J.J. Putz, who held the Reds scoreless in setting up the save for Francisco Rodriguez.

Danny Murphy blasted a solo homer in the fifth off a tiring Aaron Harang, who had mystified the Mets until running out of gas around pitch #95. He looks to be in pretty good shape compared to last year, and if he can improve his stamina will be a tough man to topple later in the year. Glad he’s in the NL Central.

Murphy drove in the Mets’ second run as well with a bases-loaded groundout in the sixth.

Game Notes

Mets put a number of runners on base early in the game, but couldn’t move them around. I’ll chalk it up to a combination of the weather and Harang hanging tough.

The first at-bats of Luis Castillo and Danny Murphy exemplified why these two are misplaced in this particular lineup. In the first inning, after Jose Reyes singled and stole second, Murphy’s job was to pull the ball and get Reyes to third base. Instead, he fisted a ball to shortstop. Luckily, Reyes still made it to third but the point is that Murphy — despite the homerun he hit in the fifth — is not a pull hitter. In the second frame, Luis Castillo came to bat in an RBI situation with one out and struck out, looking.

We’ve heard a hundred times that Jerry Manuel has had conversations with Castillo, telling him he needs to be more aggressive at the plate — particularly now that he’s down at the bottom of the lineup and will have more RBI opportunities. But does it really make sense to ask a guy to change the hitting approach he’s taken for the last 15 or so years? Castillo is a rare breed: a throwback #2 hitter who takes pitches, bunts well, and punches the ball. In the #8 spot, with the pitcher behind him, he’ll almost never bunt, and will never use his #2 skills with Brian Schneider ahead of him. But hey, if Jerry Manuel wants to keep pounding that square peg into a round hole, be my guest.

The Reds played a sloppy outfield, dropping several balls and letting several catchable balls drop. Perhaps it had something to do with the wet conditions, and compounded by the high number of fly balls hit by the Mets.

Though Santana only allowed one hit in his first five innings, he did walk four in his 5 2/3, which is too many. He also had some trouble putting away hitters once he got to two strikes. I think he threw too many sliders, and wonder if his pitch selection had anything to do with the cold and wet conditions — perhaps he couldn’t get a good changeup grip on the ball?

Putz threw a lot of pitches in the eighth — 22 to be exact. Good thing tomorrow is a day off.

Ryan Church is currently the team’s leading hitter, and tied for the team lead in stolen bases. MVP!

Next Game

The Mets and Reds take the day off tomorrow and come back to play again in Cincinnati on Wednesday. Mike Pelfrey takes the mound against Edinson Volquez. Let’s hope it’s warmer and drier.

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. Murph April 6, 2009 at 7:58 pm
    Off to a good start.

    Are we really going to have to answer Mets or Peacocks all season long, Joe?

  2. joe April 6, 2009 at 8:08 pm
    You *should* stay logged in and not have to answer that every time, unless your browser is deleting cookies or something.

    I changed the commenting so that people could comment without having to register. Hope it doesn’t annoy the loyalists, because the idea was to make things EASIER, not more difficult.

  3. nwaldrop April 6, 2009 at 8:44 pm
    A nice game. I still get scared every time Putz gets on the mound. I’m not sure why they didn’t keep Ayala as a Seventh Inning man his career ERA is 3.44. Not much difference from Putz’s 3.04 career ERA. Sean Green has a career 4.32 ERA. I just liked the way Ayala played for the Mets last year, filling in for Billy Wagner after coming from the obscure Nationals is BIG time pressure and he did pretty well (in my opinion). Any word on why Ayala was not resigned at least as a seventh inning man?
  4. joe April 6, 2009 at 9:10 pm
    nwaldrop – although I didn’t like Ayala as a setup man nor as a closer, I agree with you in that he would’ve been a nice 7th-inning guy.

    I didn’t hear anything specific, but suspect that the Mets didn’t want to pay him 7 figures to come back. Once they obtained Sean Green in the Putz deal, and drafted Darren O’Day, they were pretty set on who would be the handling the seventh inning.

    Considering that Jerry Manuel likes to run his middle relievers ragged, I’m a little concerned about Green, and always thought the rubber-armed Ayala was an ideal guy for the 80-85 appearances likely to be made by the main middle man. We’ll see how it pans out.

  5. nwaldrop April 6, 2009 at 9:30 pm
    Good Points. A big question I still have for this team is the role of Marlon Anderson. I don’t see how he can be used as a pinch hitter when Gary Sheffield is sitting on the bench. Admittedly I’ve only been watching the Mets since last year and I know Marlon has done some wonderful things for the team in his years in New York but Sheffield got 57 RBI’s on 114 AB last year, whereas Marlon got 10 RBI’s in 87 AB for the Mets. I know that Sheffield hit earlier in the order in those games last year and had better scoring opportunities but if Sheffield can get any kind of hits off the bench I don’t see any reason for keeping Marlon around. I don’t want to see Marlon go but with the arrival of Sheffield I’m not sure there’s any choice. Instead of a quick 1-2-3 in the eighth for Weathers; today you might have had Sheffield with a walk and then who knows what might have happened with Reyes and Murphy BOTH able to bat.
  6. Walnutz15 April 7, 2009 at 8:34 am
    Speaking of the Met bullpen:

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090321&content_id=4042416&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

    ^ Reading this article makes my blood boil…typical wuss…didn’t want the pressure and blames everyone else (sure he realizes the pen and himself were part of the problem but it totally sounds like he is deflecting blame here)

    Despite what appeared to be solid numbers last year — Schoeneweis put up a 3.32 ERA in 73 games and gave up 55 hits in 56 2/3 innings — he knows he’ll be most remembered for one thing.

    “I gave up a homer to [Florida Marlins utilityman] Wes Helms in a 2-2 tie on the last game of the season, and we went on to lose the game,” Schoeneweis says. “It was a solo homer. It wasn’t like I had a four-run lead and gave up a grand slam.

    “And I had pitched pretty well in four or five outings earlier that week. But that’s not what gets remembered. What gets remembered is that I blew it and the bullpen blew it, but the fact of the matter is that the team lost.

    “Guys didn’t get hits in key situations. Other mistakes were made. I mean, did we as a bullpen contribute to what happened? Of course. But was it all our fault? No.”

    I can’t wait ’til this guy gets into a game at Citi…I’ll be there, on the bridge over the bullpen….spewing hatred and expletives…..

    Oh yeah, after this article was written, Schoen-blow entered the game yesterday and promptly served up a pretty big homer to Seth Smith (who?!) a LEFTY…….SO glad this overpaid bum isn’t a member of the organization this year.

    Good riddance, Scotty.

  7. isuzudude April 7, 2009 at 8:44 am
    Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and I think yesterday’s opening day win is proof of that. On most nights, scoring 2 runs is not going to cut it, but yesterday it was just enough. On most nights stranding 12 runners on base is going to result in a loss, but yesterday it didn’t. Usually when Johan lasts just 5.2 innings (though I thought he should have finished the 6th as well) things aren’t going well for the Mets, but yesterday they did. And then you have Ryan Church making juggling catches and controversially doubling up a runner on 1st, and Dan Murphy driving in all of the Mets’ runs, and David Wright getting gunned down at the plate, yada yada yada. A win is a win, and I’ll take it. But the Mets were not flawless in their performance yesterday, and still haven’t convinced me that they are a playoff team.

    Joe, you took the words out of my mouth regarding Murphy/Castillo and their places in the lineup, so I won’t harp on that subject.

    It was finally nice to see a flawless bullpen session, though, compared to the constant migraine we had to endure for the final 2 months last year. Putz and Krod won’t be perfect, but no bullpen is. All they need to do is be better than what the pen was last year, which is pretty much a foregone conclusion. I was glad Jerry let Green work the 7th after getting the final out in the 6th, and in hindsight Green needed only 11 pitches to record 4 outs, and with the day off today, I don’t think that’s taxing too much from our new middle man.

    Good comments, Walnutz. I chuckled when I saw Show struggled in his first outing with Arizona. Actions speak louder than words, I suppose…

    By the way, nwaldrop, I disagree on Ayala. Comparing ERAs is one thing, but when you stack up JJ Putz’ stuff against Ayala, there is no comparison. Plus, looking at career ERA statistics exclusively is deceptive. Yes, Ayala’s career ERA is a respectable 3.44, but since he had Tommy John surgery in 2006, his ERA is 4.80. And despite your opinion, Ayala’s ERA after being traded to the Mets was 5.50. Those are the numbers you have to judge Ayala on now, not career ERA. And those numbers come no where close to what Green or Putz will give the Mets in 2009. Keep an eye on Ayala with Minnesota this season and see if his performance there changes your mind in time.

    Also, regarding Anderson, fear not because he will undoubtedly be released once Livan Hernandez gets called up to start this weekend. Jerry likely used him yesterday because of the lefty vs righty matchup, and perhaps because Anderson (3/8, .375) faired better than Sheffield (4/18, .222) against Weathers in his career.

  8. micalpalyn April 7, 2009 at 9:56 am
    The 1-12 with men on is the glaring stat here. We did not make the playoffs not only because of the pen but hitting with runners on base.

    I actually like the roster right now. I am suprised at the Sheff addition especially now. If he so dreamed of being a Met imagine if he was here in ’99-04. I look forward to seing his first ABs. Similarly, Jeremy Reed and Darren O’Day. I have seen alot of Reed and I think he could surprise. Agreed tho that it would appear Parnall and Reed could see some air-miles over the next few months. O’Day i think benefits from the Register effect, and he will be carried if he can at least get some outs as a 12th pitcher and do some mopping.

    Indeed as Dude points out career ERA is not a great yard stick to measure by. The Seattle media hardly blinked at losing Putz but were more critical of losing Green.

  9. micalpalyn April 7, 2009 at 10:02 am
    PS: The dialog above (including my comment) leaves out stokes. With Day and Parnall Mets have middle releivers. Stokes is a commodity (right now- based on trade banter )and yet the Mets could live without him AND afford themselves MORE roster flexibility by giving his spot to a reliever with options.
  10. Walnutz15 April 7, 2009 at 10:35 am
    “If he so dreamed of being a Met imagine if he was here in ‘99-04.”

    Not sure how familiar you are with Sheff’s Met-laden past, Mic — but essentially….the Mets rejected Sheffield at every turn back in the day (around this very same time-frame 99-200-ish).

    Sheff ASKED the Dodgers to trade him to the Mets during the Spring of 2001……coming off the 2000 Subway Series defeat. And I remember them offering up an insulting package, to the tune of something like Darryl Hamilton and Dennis Cook.

    Of course, that was the kind of half-hearted “effort” we’d seen from the Mets in the past during the Piazza regime…never really surrounding him with marquee talent; and it’s no question they didn’t actually win anything in terms of real hardware.\

    The Dodgers wanted guys like Payton, Alfonzo, Benitez, Piazza himself (which wasn’t happening) — but really, straight up for Prime Sheffield?

    I also remember Piazza being somewhat disappointed, that the Mets weren’t more serious about it.

    Then, you had the famous anti-Sheff talk coming from Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura — that they didn’t want to trade for Sheffield…..citing his “disruptive nature”.

    Meanwhile, the Mets couldn’t wait to get rid of either player — not too long afterwards……and Sheffield was putting up MVP numbers.

    Ahh, our Metsies….God luv ’em.

  11. Walnutz15 April 7, 2009 at 11:18 am
    Great article to read in hindsight…..by the way.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/19/sports/baseball-still-no-welcome-for-sheffield-at-shea.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/Z/Zeile,%20Todd&scp=3&sq=zeile,%20ventura%20Gary%20Sheffield&st=cse

    As far as yesterday is concerned, I was happy to see Johan come out and throw well — especially since so many were crying hysterically and wringing their hands over him “not being ready” a month ago.

    Time to step up and hit situationally, though — can’t afford not to cash in this year when the opportunities are there.

  12. joe April 7, 2009 at 11:18 am
    ‘dude: Waldrop was talking about Ayala for the 7th innning, not as a setup man in place of Putz.

    Mic: it’s “ParNELL” not “Parnall”. If Stokes is a commodity, they better trade him immediately, because that won’t last. His fastball is as straight as an arrow and he has yet to find a complementary pitch to go with it. Stokes reminds me of high school pitchers who say they “have” five pitches, but can’t throw any of them over the plate consistently. Stokes “has” a curve, slider, change, and now splitter, but can get outs with none of them at the MLB level.

    Waldrop: it looks like the end of the line for Marlon, barring an injury to someone else.

    Walnutz: thanks for the tip on the Scho article … I’m posting one in response, right now. Stay tuned.