It's a game they would've lost last season. No question about it. No way Johan Santana comes out in the sixth inning of a one-run game and the Mets hold on. But this is not last season.
While the Mets will normally get more out of their ace than the 5.2 innings he gave them on Opening Day, it's no longer necessary to push Santana to the limit. I know it's only one game, but the way it played out was so fitting in contrast to last season's bullpen disaster.
The names that became inextricably associated with Shea Stadium booing—Heilman, Schoeneweis, and others—are gone. It's a brand-new bullpen for 2009, and boy did it shine in its debut, as the Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds 2-1.
Santana gave the ball to Sean Green, acquired from Seattle in a deal that sent Heilman packing, and he retired all four batters he faced. JJ Putz, also from the Mariners, took care of business in the eighth.
And then Francisco Rodriguez, the record-setting closer from Anaheim, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. The closer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. I'm not sure saves were an official statistic the last time a Mets pitcher did that.
What a relief this must be for manager Jerry Manuel. It's no longer a game of Russian roulette after the starter is pulled. He's got some relievers who can get righties and lefties out. A call to the bullpen should no longer elicit a gag reflex among Mets fans. The start of the eighth inning will not require a channel change.
Again, I know it's only one game, and the remaining 161 aren't going to follow the same script. But coming off a season as disappointing, frustrating, and at times embarrassing as last year's, this was a great start.
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