Apr 09

April 9.10: About Last Night; Niese shows up; offense doesn’t.

Losing two of three to the Florida Marlins, including 3-1 last night, isn’t the fast start manager Jerry Manuel envisioned. The upsetting thing is they could have swept this series with several more hits.

There was one positive to take out of the game, and that’s Jonathan Niese, who gave up three runs in six innings. Niese pitched with composure and efficiency for the most part, something they didn’t get the night before from John Maine. Something to look out for is the Marlins did some first-ball hitting because Niese often started out with fastballs.

Offensively, the Mets picked up where they left off the previous night, not to mention 2009. They left two runners on in the second and fourth innings when they could have made a dent into the game. Just three extra-base hits in their past two games.

When you’re not going to pitch consistently, you need to score. And, you can’t afford to waste good outings when you get them. The Mets were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring positions and left seven, and over the past two games have gone 0-for-10 while leaving 16. Not the ingredients of a fast start.

Tonight against Washington, it will be Mike Pelfrey vs. Garrett Mock.

Apr 08

April 8.10: Chat Room, Game #3, vs. Marlins, Niese gets the ball.

Undeniably the Mets’ pitching is suspect, which Jerry Manuel has finally admitted. He didn’t say the team should have been more aggressive this winter, but reading between the lines you can bet he’d like some help.

After John Maine last night, and the fact he moved around Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, there’s little doubt to anyone that their pitching is in trouble.

“I think an honest assessment is that we have to be somewhat concerned,” Manuel said. “We had some setbacks and some inconsistencies there last year, so we can’t just assume that that’s going to be lights out. We have some questions there, and hopefully tonight we’ll see where we are at least in part to that particular issue.”

Jonathan Niese gets the nod tonight against the Marlins. Interesting, but Manuel said if Niese gets into trouble he’ll get the chance to work out of it if his pitch count is around 50 or 60.

That’s good to see. Without the chance we’ll never know how good Niese could be.

By the way, I won’t be around for the start of the chat room. I’ve started taking classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I should be back around 9 for the last few innings.

Apr 08

April 8.10: About Last Night – Flashback, 2009.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to last night was the comeback, how it was generated by good, patient at-bats. Considering how they played overall, the Mets had no business playing baseball in the tenth inning last night.

The rally was encouraging because we saw too little of that last season.

However, and you knew there would be one, last night was a reminder of last season in several ways.

First, there was the horrid starting pitching of John Maine. We heard during spring training that his shoulder was fine, and maybe it is, but there’s something definitely not right with his pitching. Ninety-two pitches is way too many for not getting out of the fifth. His location was spotty (he missed on the homer by a foot and a wild pitch set up another run) and his velocity is down.

Will Maine improve? I really don’t know. You would hope, but maybe the 15 wins in 2007 was his ceiling.

Secondly, there was the offense, which mustered only six hits. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. One or two more hits and this was a win.

Finally, the bullpen gave up three runs. When your starter won’t give you five, giving up three in the pen is too many. Jenrry Mejia’s outing made you wonder if the Mets jumping the gun with him, but the performances by Sean Green and Hisanori Takahashi makes one think they might not have had a choice. Oh yeah, last night would have been perfect for Nelson Figueroa.

There was the Fernando Tatis play, which was boneheaded for sure. A reminder of how sloppy they were on the bases last night. But, you can’t hang the game on that one play. Afterall, there was no guarantee David Wright would have come through.

Of course, no guarantee he wouldn’t have, either.

Apr 07

April 7.10: Chat Room, Game #2, vs. Marlins, Maine gets the test.

Obviously, the most pressing and important issue surrounding the Mets this season is their rotation beyond Johan Santana, and the first test goes to John Maine, tonight’s starter against the Florida Marlins.

Maine (7-6, 4.43 ERA last season) missed most of last season with a sore right shoulder coming off surgery.

Maine is 3-1 with a 1.05 ERA in four starts against the Marlins in New York, and 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 career starts.

Maine did not have a good spring with a 7.88 ERA, and manager Jerry Manuel said during his pre-game he’s inclined to have a short leash with him.

After the opener, Manuel said he’d stay with the hot hand.

Line-up vs. Ricky Nolasco (13-9, 5.06 last year):

Alex Cora, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
David Wright, 3B
Mike Jacobs, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Gary Matthews, CF
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RP

NOTEBOOK: Manuel said Oliver Perez is able to work out of the pen tonight. … As long as Gary Matthews stays hot, he’ll be playing ahead of Angel Pagan. … Manuel said he’d like to use Jenrry Mejia during this home stand.

Apr 06

April 6.10: Wright steps up for his team.

David Wright spoke in basic, but his smile told a much more complex story.

First inning, Citi Field, yesterday afternoon and Wright was rounding the bases after hitting a two-run, opposite-field homer off Josh Johnson … his smile carrying him as much as his legs.

Wright, who seemingly talked himself out of hitting for power early in the season, and later that lost summer was felled with a concussion after taking a Matt Cain fastball to his head, had just gotten the Mets off to a fast start in turning the page from a disastrous 2009.

Could one swing of the bat set the tone for a summer?

“I don’t put too much stock into home runs,’’ said Wright, who hit only ten of them last year, one of them last Opening Day he was quick to remind when the “tone’’ word surfaced.

Logic says no, that Mets 7, Marlins 1, was simply one game, but the game gave us a glimpse of what could happen when Wright’s team puts it all together for an afternoon. Yesterday was a blue print of what needs to happen.

The Mets need pitching more than power and Johan Santana was superb. And, with their suspect rotation, they need the bullpen late and Fernando Nieve gave them two sterling innings and Francisco Rodriguez was perfect.

Last summer, the Mets hit a major league low 95 homers – the only team not to hit 100 – so their offense must generate runs and take advantage of what is offered. So many opportunities were wasted last year, but yesterday they parlayed three Florida errors into four runs. A gift, yes, but too many times last year they came away empty in similar spots.

The new guys, Gary Matthews, Jason Bay and Rod Barajas had two hits apiece, and Matthews showed he can cover center until Carlos Beltran’s return.

“I think it was an all-around good effort,” Wright said. “We caught the ball, we pitched well and obviously had some timely hitting. You can’t ask for much more than that, first game of the season.’’

Wright is correct, it’s only one game, but it’s better than if it had been one game the other way. For a team coming off two late season collapses and a free-fall summer, that played with frustrating mediocrity this spring, winning sure as hell beats losing.

“By no stretch of the imagination are we where we want to be right now,’’ said manager Jerry Manuel, who looks at winning in a more personal, job-preserving vein. “The important thing is that as you put the pieces into place that you win games.

“We played well. We played all 27 outs.’’

There will be times this summer when they don’t. All teams, even champions, have those moments. And, there will be times this summer when the smile Wright wore yesterday will be a frown.

But, it was finally nice to see him smile.

“It’s good to see David get started,’’ Jeff Francoeur said. “David has to step up. It has to be his team.’’

And, yesterday it was.