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.
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!
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.