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Coming off a game where you lost your captain for the next few weeks, I almost expected a let-down game where the Mets would give a listless performance that has almost become a trademark when faced with a little bit of adversity. When Jonathon Niese gave up an early run and looked to be having control problems, my fears felt justified.
Except then…they weren’t.
The Mets finished off a three-game sweep of the rival Phillies in their opening act at Citi Field this season by the score of 6-1. The Phils look like an absolutely horrid team this year which is incredibly pleasing. But the Mets still need to be able to capitalize on that awfulness and they went out and took care of business tonight.
Niese pitched into the 7th and allowed only the one first-inning run, Carlos Torres came out of the bullpen to induce a double play ball and Alex Torres covered the final two innings of relief to cap another good pitching performance for the team. The Mets got homers from Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda, both of whom have been off to fast starts this season.
This was genuinely a solid, feel-good game. I love the Mets. But I’ve learned to temper my expectations for them that way, when they inevitably let me down, it doesn’t hurt so bad. I really expected them to come out flat and turn in a lackluster performance and then listen to a Terry Collins presser where he drops buzzwords like “grind” and “consistency” and “turn the page”.
And I almost would have accepted that too, in all honesty. With David Wright going down for the next few weeks, it’s only natural to think that the mood of the clubhouse would have taken a bit of a hit. For all the talk about how the “feel” around the club was significantly different in camp, it’s not crazy to think that losing your star attraction (who’s been stinging the ball) would take the wind out of their sails.
Maybe we can chalk it up to maturity. Or veteran leadership from Granderson and Cuddyer. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a combination of both. But these team seemed to know the situation and decided that they had to step up and put on probably their best all-around performance of the young season.
Eric Campbell, called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Wright, started at 3B and had his first major-league hit of the season after absolutely knocking the cover off the ball in Vegas. By calling Campbell up now, the Mets were also able to save his minor-league option which may (or may not) become important down the road.
Campbell offers some versatility to the big club that they didn’t have previously. Playing with a short bench so they could have an extra arm in the bullpen, Collins was limited as to how he could maneuver his bench late in games. We saw a great example of this during last night’s game when backup catcher, Anthony Recker, was forced into action at 3B once Wright was removed with his injury. Campbell has experience all over the infield, the outfield corners and even picked up a little catching to make himself more valuable during spring training. Though he’s not necessarily Ozzie Smith at any of the spots, he is a competent utility player and may become invaluable over the course of the long baseball season.
d’Arnaud hit in the second spot and looked very good in doing so. He reminded me – and pretty much everybody else on #MetsTwitter – of Paul LoDuca who was amazing hitting behind Jose Reyes in during the 2006 season. Obviously, it’s a small sample size, but d’Arnaud looks confident and has been among the most productive offensive catchers in baseball since returning from his minor league demotion in the middle of last season. He’s had the tools and hype for what seems like a decade and was twice traded for Cy Young award winners (Roy Halladay and RA Dickey) so it’s not like the Mets were the only team that saw the potential. Travis coming into his own and becoming a dependable major league lengthens this lineup and gives them a leg-up at a very limited position across the sport.
Curtis Granderson had two hits, both going to the opposite field and both hard hit which was really nice to see. Prior to the season, I thought an improved Grandyman and a healthy Wright were the two biggest keys to a successful season. Hopefully, David responds well and is able to return at 100% before long, but both guys were/are showing a very good approach. Granderson isn’t your typical leadoff hitter anymore. He’s lost some of the speed that made him a burner with the Tigers and he still strikes out a ton, but he’s shown an improved eye at the dish and is taking a ton of walks and seems to have gotten away from the “pull everything” approach that made him a huge power threat in Yankee Stadium, but just meant a ton of lazy flyballs in Queens.
All in all, a great way to begin at home. To have it be against the Phillies does, in fact, make it even sweeter so I’ll go to bed tonight a very happy Met fan. Hopefully there’s more of these happy recaps to come as it’s genuinely nice to be excited about your favorite team. I’d seriously love to be chronicling some big, important games come September and October. That sounds like a good time.
We’re back at tomorrow as we start a set with the Marlins. Let’s hope for a lot more of what we saw the past few days. #LGM