The Cincinnati Reds' Outfield Needs Willie Taveras
Without their usual centerfielder, Willie Taveras, the Reds seemed out of sync all afternoon, the team that is now 2-1 against New York in opening day games.
Even after the Mets' opening-day starter, Johan Santana, was pulled by manager Jerry Manuel after just five-and-two-thirds innings, the new and improved Mets bullpen was able to hold the Reds scoreless and preserve the win for Santana by the score of 2-1.
Amid freezing temperatures and rainy conditions, the Mets relied on the play of their defense, which helped keep five Reds runners stranded on base throughout the game.
New York, meanwhile, managed to strand 11 men on base, going a meager 1-12 with runners in scoring position.
Even with the lack of offensive production, all the Mets needed was two RBI from left fielder, Daniel Murphy, to secure the victory.
Murphy, who only had 30 plate appearances for the Mets last year, proved that he belonged with his hitting and with his defense.
Murphy made Reds' starting pitcher, Aaron Harang, pay for a belt high fastball in the top of the fifth inning by delivering with a line-drive shot that cleared the right-center-field fence for the Mets' first home run and run scored of the season.
As opposed to the Mets' outfield and the defensive play of Murphy, Carlos Beltran, and Ryan Church, the Reds defense had trouble coordinating with each other, allowing several bloopers to fall in between diving white jerseys.
Making the start in center field after 10-plus years in the minor leagues, was Darnell McDonald, while Taveras is still recovering from the flu. McDonald confused his outfield teammates with his hesitations on fly balls that normally should have been handled cleanly and instead fell in for bloop singles.
McDonald did redeem himself on offense by getting on base with a single and then scoring the Reds' only run off of a Brandon Phillips sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut the Mets' lead to 2-1.
After McDonald scored the first run off of Santana, the Mets' ace was pulled after five-and-two-thirds innings of work, seven strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA.
Unlike last year's inconsistent bullpen, this year's Mets' bullpen kept the Reds scoreless for the rest of the game, something Santana was not used to.
Sean Green and J.J. Putz, two new Mets relief pitchers acquired from Seattle Mariners in the off season, were able to set up Mets' closer, Francisco Rodriguez, with two-and-one-third innings of set-up work.
Rodriguez, also known as K-Rod, was able to get his first save as a member of the Mets, preserving the victory for New York.
The Mets hope it is just the first save of many for Rodriguez, who led the American League in saves last year as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
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