Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mets-Cardinals Progressive Game Blog: First Inning

Today I am participating in a progressive game blog put together by United Cardinals Bloggers. Several Mets and Cardinals blogs will each cover an inning of today's game. 

I covered the first inning from the Mets' side. Pitchers Hit Eighth will cover the first inning from the Cardinals' side.

I've been a Met fan for more than four decades, but today's game will be a new experience for me. For the first time, when the opposing team gets a hit, I won't think to myself, "another day without a no-hitter."
Cardinal fans reading this may not realize how big a deal last night was to Met fans. You've had ten no-hitters, six since the Mets came into existence in 1962. We had none before last night. And the Mets are typically a team built around pitching that has played primarily in pitchers' parks. 

Not to mention the superstar pitchers who have played for the Mets. After taking three no-hitters into the ninth as a Met, Tom Seaver finally completed one the year after the Mets dealt him. Nolan Ryan went on throw a record seven no-hitters after the Mets traded him away. Gooden and David Cone not only pitched no-hitters after leaving the Mets, but did so for the (ugh) Yankees. 

As the Mets' latest superstar pitcher, Johan Santana, attempted to come back from an injury that the conventional wisdom said would mean that he would never be great again, one of the players traded for him, Philip Humber, pitched a perfect game. 

So forgive me, Cardinal fans, if I'm still basking over last night. It only took 8,020 games. And the fact that it was Santana showing he had made it all the way back makes it even sweeter.

Top of the First Inning

Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey had a sensational May, going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. For the season, Dickey is 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA. He's become a big fan favorite since joining the Mets in 2010. This spring, Dickey was the subject of the documentary "Knuckleball," which follows Dickey and fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield during the 2011 season.

Leadoff batter Rafael Furcal grounded out to third.

Daniel Descalso struck out swinging. Then Matt Holliday came up.

Whenever I see Holliday, I think back to when Holliday was a free agent after the 2009 season and signed with St. Louis for $120 million. The Mets signed the second-best power-hitting left fielder available that year, Jason Bay, for $66 million.  At the time, one could argue that the Mets were making the right financial decision. Of course Holliday was better than Bay, but was he really worth twice as much?

Actually, Holliday has turned out toe be worth a lot more than twice as much as Bay. Here’s Holliday and Bay’s WAR from 2010-12, via Fangraphs:

Holliday: 13.8
Bay: 2.1

Bay has been on the DL since April 24 and few people seem to care. The Mets were 8-8 with Bay and have been 21-15 since he got hurt.

Bay comes across as a likable sort who always hustles. If Bay had been in left last night, I have no doubt that he would have crashed into the wall to make the play as Mike Baxter did. Bay suffered a season-ending concussion crashing into a wall in July 2010.

But as far as contracts go, Bay's helped get Omar Minaya fired.

Holliday flied out to left.

Dickey only threw seven pitches. I couldn't help thinking of Santana barreling past his 115-pitch limit last night on the way to 134 pitches.

Bottom of the First Inning

Left fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off for the Mets.  Nieuwenhuis, a rookie hitting .301, is the main reason few people are that worried about when Bay will return.

Nieuwenhuis struck out swinging.

Next up was center fielder Andres Torres, who is evidence that Mets GM Sandy Alderson, now in his second season, remains in his honeymoon period. Alderson acquired Torres and Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan.

Torres is hitting .211 with an OPS of .649. It would be nice if he were simply off to a bad start, but these numbers are similar to his 2011 numbers of .211 and .643. Torres' breakout year in 2010 at age 32 looks more and more like a fluke.  Now Torres is 34 and could not make it through Opening Day without ending up on the DL with a calf injury. 

Ramirez is also a big disappointment so far with a 4.78 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. And now there's news that he was injured during the celebration after the no-hitter.  See, nothing can ever go completely right for the Mets!

Meanwhile, Pagan is off to a great start, hitting .315 with an .821 OPS and 10 steals.

With Torres and Dickey, the Mets do hold the distinction of having two players in the same lineup who are the subjects of new documentaries. "Gigante" is the story of Torres' struggles with ADHD.

Torres tried to bunt his way on, but not much is going right for him and he bunted foul. Then he grounded out to first.

Then third baseman David Wright, the face of the franchise, came up.

Lost in all the excitement over Santana’s no-hitter was Wright's announcement yesterday that he will not talk about a new contract during the regular season.  Last year, Jose Reyes made the same announcement and we know how that turned out. Most people around here seem to feel that the Mets will keep Wright, but you never know until it happens.

Wright hit a ground-rule double to center. The Mets moved their fences in this year and it's already helped a few more balls go out of Citi Field, but they didn't move them in enough to help Wright on this at bat, as the ball landed on the warning track before bouncing over the wall.

First baseman Lucas Duda walked on a 3-1 count. The Mets have become a much more patient team at the plate since the arrival of Alderson and his "moneyball" philosophy.

Second baseman Daniel Murphy was up next.  With players like Murphy and Duda in the lineup more for their bats than their gloves, the late innings of the no-hitter were that much more dramatic. Murphy in particular can be an adventure in the field. Fortunately for the Mets, it all worked out.

Murphy flied out to end the bottom of the first.

For the second inning, please go to Cards 'N Stuff.

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