When you look at the April schedule, you realize how important it is for the Mets to get off to a fast start. Between all the divisional games to kick it off, and the Giants and the Rockies, April came in like a lion for this team … this team with seemingly a few more than 99 problems.
So far, so good.
4-0 for the New York Mets is being treated like a big deal. It shows you how low the expectations were. It shows you how depressing the last three seasons have been. To say that you could have never imagined a start like this is basically saying that you could have never imagined a four game winning streak. And when you put it in those terms, 4-0 isn’t really a big deal. But it sure is nice, isn’t it? And it’s extra special when win number four is as wacky and hysterical as this one was.
To start: Mike Pelfrey. There was plenty of Pelfreyness in this game, which is like eating a steak with a fair amount of gristle. But don’t be fooled by the indisputable fact that Pelfrey was the fourth starting pitcher of the season. Pelfrey is a fifth starter. And he gave up 3 runs in 5 and 2/3’s innings. This is about right for a fifth starter. The main question with Pelfrey has always been about limiting damage. You know when he pitches, there will be damage. Question has always been “how much”. With the outing that Pelfrey had, a two run home run by, say, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, would tie the game instead of cutting the deficit to three. So Pelfrey deserves a little bit of credit here.
As for Nieuwenhuis, he found out that some sliders by Edwin Jackson are unlike anything he had ever seen in the minors. He also found out that a flat slider in Flushing is just as flat as the ones he saw in Buffalo. Crack! Home run off the Modell’s sign for a double in 2011, but a home run in this new, and so far improved 2012 season. I don’t know if Andres Torres will have anything to worry about when he comes back from the D.L. in two weeks or more, but perhaps if Nieuwenhuis keeps hitting then Jason Baycoeur might have to worry about hitting eighth, ninth, or twenty sixth soon.
Then came the crazy ninth inning. First off, let it swirl around your head that the top of the ninth was saved by a Daniel Murphy defensive play. Thaaaaaaaat’s right, Murphy dove to his backhand on Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder up the middle to get Ian Desmond on the force at second and end the inning instead of having first and third with Adam “Chipper Jr.” LaRoche at the plate. Yeah, it’s a trip, right? The Mets are 4-0 and Daniel Murphy is playing stellar defense? This must be a dream.
(Actually, I don’t worry so much about Murphy making the great play. I worry more about Murphy making the routine play like turning a double play or being in the right cut-off position … or breaking his leg while deciding who’s going to cover second on a steal attempt, stuff like that.)
Then to the bottom half of the frame. Henry Rodriguez throws fire. He made Scott Hairston look silly in the eighth inning (but not as silly as Hairston made himself look when he couldn’t find his glove to take the field for the ninth). But throwing 100 mph doesn’t really do you a lot of good if you’re throwing that hard to first base on a sac bunt. And that’s exactly what he did when Ruben Tejada bunted it right back to Rodriguez (almost too hard) to get Mike Baxter to second which turned out to be third when Rodriguez threw his 100 mph stuff into right field. That was the first yelp out of my chair. The second one came when Tim Teufel stopped Baxter, and Baxter hit the deck in no man’s land between third and home. Now if this was 2011, Baxter probably never makes it back to third, because those are the kinds of things that happened then. And maybe we’ll have more of that in the future, but not yet.
Or maybe Baxter, if he does make it back to third, he gets stranded there for extra innings in 2011. Or 2010. Or 2009. But with craftsman Daniel Murphy at the plate and scorching David Wright on deck (rock, meet hard place) I … of all people … had a feeling that this game was over. If the Mets have one man in their lineup that isn’t scared of 100 mph heat, it’s Murphy.
Crack! Game over. Mets are 4-0, and the only question became whether Murphy would to on the disabled list as a result of his teammates beating the ever loving crap out of him after the single, or as a result of Justin Turner rubbing shaving cream right in his eyes because there was no whipped cream in the clubhouse. There’s a Mama’s of Corona stand in right field. They couldn’t have armed the clubbies with a can of Reddi Whip? Jeez, if Murphy starts seeing three fastballs at once at the plate I won’t even know who to blame. (Though I’m sure Bobby Ojeda does as evidenced by his postgame “I don’t want to see shaving cream after game 4” rant on the post game. Somebody get Bobby a lawn for Christmas so he can yell at kids to get off it.)
But Murphy survived the multiple assaults. You know he wouldn’t have in 2011. Maybe this season really is different.