What else is there to say? The Mets rock!
After all the concern surrounding the Mets’ starting rotation, it appears now to be the area of least concern. Of course, it’s early, but if the first four games of the season are any indication, the Mets’ starting rotation could be a strength, rather than a weakness.
Oliver Perez was absolutely brilliant, scattering five hits, walking none, and striking out six in seven innings. Key to his performance was his efficiency — he threw only 82 pitches, 56 for strikes — and would likely have pitched through the eighth inning and possibly finished the game if the Mets didn’t have such a long time at bat in the top of the 8th.
In this game, Ollie had the most important weapon in a pitcher’s arsenal working: strike one. Consistently, Perez started batters 0-1, most often spotting his fastball on the low outside corner against righthanded batters. With Perez nailing that low strike time after time, Braves batters were constantly in the hole, easy prey for Ollie’s swerving slider. He made only one mistake all night — a fastball left over the middle of the plate, chest-high, that Jeff Francoeur blasted over the centerfield fence — and exuded confidence throughout the game. If this Oliver Perez can show up most of the time in 2007, the Mets will have one of the top lefthanded starters in the National League.
Similar to Game Three, the final score of this contest was not indicative of how close the game really was. It was a one-run game until the sixth inning, when the Mets scored three runs in chasing soft-tosser Mark Redman to the showers. The lead remained cushy until the 8th, when the “much improved” Braves bullpen allowed only two Mets batters to hit more than once in the inning, and held New York to just six runs in the inning.
If there was an offensive hero in the game, it would have to be Jose Reyes, who hit two triples and continued hot streak belied the cold weather. Reyes was 3-6 with four RBI and two runs scored, but was unable to draw a walk and left a runner on base — so there’s still room for improvement. Every other Met in the starting lineup had at least one hit, including Oliver Perez.
The only disappointment on offense came from Shawn Green, who went 1-3 with two walks, two runs scored, and an RBI. He’s hitting only .333 on the season, and no one can figure out why he continues to be placed in the lineup with Lastings Milledge perfectly healthy and able waiting on the bench.
Ambiorix Burgos got into another non-pressure situation and threw another perfect inning, striking out one and throwing only nine pitches — eight for strikes. Joe Smith had an equally stressless ninth, giving up one hit, striking out one, and getting two ground ball outs on 12 pitches (9 for strikes).
Overall, an awesome game from every angle, and especially pleasing in that it resulted in the Braves first loss of the year. There’s a remarkably different aura in these Mets vs. Braves games compared to three years ago — it’s as if the teams have traded places. No longer will the Mets have a mental block or feeling of initimidation going into Atlanta; however, it could be the other way around when the young Braves make their way to Shea.
Saturday afternoon game has Tommy Glavine vs. his old teammate John Smoltz in 28-degree weather. Isn’t it supposed to be warm in Atlanta this time of year?