Game 1: Win
Mets 6 Cardinals 1
(I PROMISE that this is NOT an April Fools’ joke … the Mets really did win tonight.)
While the Mets’ offense is what everyone talks about, it was their defense and pitching that stole the show on Opening Day.
Jose Reyes and Jose Valentin teamed up to turn several double plays, including one absolute masterpiece in the 9th inning. There are no words to describe it, so hopefully you caught it live or on ESPN Web Gems.
The outfield was equally spectacular, headed by a diving catch by Moises Alou and a perfect throw by Carlos Beltran that nailed David Eckstein at home in a bang-bang play at the plate — which Paul LoDuca did a great job of executing the block-catch-and-tag.
Tom Glavine was terrific, keeping hitters off-balance and guessing wrong for six strong innings. He ran out of gas in the sixth, but hung on just long enough to get through the end of the sixth. Glavine cruised to his 291st career win.
Chris Carpenter, on the other hand, had some troubles early, giving up five earned runs in his first four innings of work. However, he didn’t look bad — he threw plenty of low, moving strikes and even when he missed, seemed to be just a hair off the black. As Tony LaRussa admitted during an in-game interview, the Mets simply did a great job of laying off pitcher’s pitches, and hitting pitches they could handle. The overall team approach was strong fundamentally, as several Mets hits were to the opposite field or up the middle. Even Tom Glavine had a base hit to left field.
Carlos Delgado looked great at the plate, and although he had only one hit, easily would have had three if not for the obnoxious shift. He had one bullet up the middle that was speared by Eckstein and another into what would have been the hole between first and second.
Joe Smith made his MLB debut after Pedro Feliciano walked the leadoff batter in the eighth. Smith gave up a hit and a walk and struck out one before giving way to Aaron Heilman with the bases loaded. For a moment it looked like Willie Randolph might test Smith’s mettle, and let him work out of the jam. But, the Mets had a four-run lead at the time and Scott Rolen up at bat, and I believe Willie factored in the beauty of an Opening Day win and Tom Glavine’s one step closer to 300. If it were later in the week, with perhaps a John Maine decision hanging in the balance, Willie might have let Mighty Joe work himself out of it. For the record, Smith threw a total of 12 pitches in his debut — 8 for strikes. The only four balls he threw were all to Albert Pujols, and they were appropriately low and just off the outside corner. Any other hitter would have chased at least two of them.
I was a little surprised that Billy Wagner finished the game with a five-run lead. First, because Wagner has shown he is a disaster in non-save situations. Secondly, I thought it was a prime opportunity to get Ambiorix Burgos into a game, late, without it being a pressure situation. As it was, Wagner finished the game without too much stress, though he did allow two hits.
Though the Mets collected 12 hits on the evening, only Paul LoDuca and Shawn Green had more than one (two apiece). So much for each of those players’ sub-.200 batting averages in spring training.
Genius quote by Joe Morgan: “Albert Pujols has to be even better than he’s ever been for the Cardinals to repeat. There’s a lot of pressure on him this year especially because of all the injuries the Cardinals have.”
Um, Joe? There is not one St. Louis Cardinal with an injury at this point in the season. (Genius!) That quote barely beat out this one:
John Miller: “Frank Robinson, in fact, hit a homerun on Opening Day while serving as player-manager for the Cleveland Indians.”
Joe Morgan: “Yeah, but since he was a manager, are we counting that?”
Day off on Monday, then the Mets and St. Louis do it again on Tuesday night at
8:10 PM. El Duque faces Kip Wells. Yes, Kip Wells is the Cardinals’ #2 starter … and you thought the Mets had issues with their starting rotation.