First Month Review: New York Mets Showing NL East Who's Boss
So, as we flip the calendar to the merry month of May, we look back on the New York Mets' roller coaster ride through month of April.
The Mets began the season in grand fashion. Johan Santana was vintage as they cruised to an easy 7-1 victory over the Florida Marlins. But for the next 2-3 weeks, the good times stopped rolling. They lost the remainder of that series to the Fish, and managed to win just three of their next nine games.
They did manage to win a game that was the equivalent of over two games. On April 17, they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 after playing 20 innings at Busch Stadium. That victory may have been the turning point in the Mets' young 2010 season.
Though they did not win the next game against the Cards, they came home to Citi Field after that series and took two of three from the Cubs. That series opened a new chapter in Mets history, as top prospect Ike Davis made his Major League Debut on April 19. And has he ever been a sparkplug for the Mets.
In his debut, Davis went 2-4 with an RBI as the Mets defeated the Cubs 6-1. It was their 4-0 win the next night that prompted Cubs' manager Lou Piniella to move the struggling Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen.
The Mets continued their pivotal home-stand against the division-rival Atlanta Braves. And all they did was sweep the Braves in the three-game series, outscoring them 9-3 in the process. The Mets then went on to complete a three-game sweep of the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers, thereby propelling the New York Mets into first place in the National League East.
That's right, I said "first place" and "the New York Mets" in the same sentence.
Going into Friday night's game against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets were 1/2 game in front of the Phils for tops in the division. And the Mets capped off the first month of the season with a 9-1 rout of the Phillies, in what was likely the Mets' best game of the season.
The Mets became just the fourth team in history to be as many as five games out of first place, only to reach first place in the same month. They join the 1982 San Diego Padres, the 1989 Mets, and the 2007 San Francisco Giants as the only teams to accomplish this feat. The Mets were five games back as recently as April 16, and now sit 1 1/2 games in front of the Washington Nationals for first place.
Yes, that is correct. The Washington Nationals (not the Phillies) are currently in second place in the NL East. Looks like the injury bug is contagious, and the 2009 Mets seemed to have passed it on to the 2010 Phillies, as injuries to Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Madson have made the Phillies look, if nothing else, vulnerable.
So just how did the Mets become the division's best team in just two weeks?
Terrific starting pitching, spotless bullpen efforts, and big time hitting—all the ingredients to a winning ball club.
Mike Pelfrey has been the happiest story so far. The kid from Wichita has finally showed his potential. Pelfrey, drafted in the first round in the 2005 draft, has shown glimpses of his talent but never really broke out. After going 4-0 with a 0.69 ERA, Pelfrey has been a big reason for the Mets' success to start the 2010 season.
Santana has been, well, Santana. Jonathon Niese, who pitched a sparkling game against the Phils Friday night, is showing that he belongs in the major leagues for good. Even Oliver Perez and John Maine have had some good moments so far.
The bullpen has arguably been the most consistent aspect of the 2010 Mets.
Jenrry Mejia and his 1.64 ERA has been a true bright spot for the Mets so far. Whether he stays in the bullpen or gets inserted into the rotation remains to be seen. Pedro Feliciano has gone from left-handed specialist to 8th inning set-up man, and Francisco Rodriguez has been solid, despite not getting his first save of the season until April 22.
Japanese imports Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi have been plesant surprises for the team as well.
The Mets offense, which had been anemic to start the year, got a major boost when Davis was inserted into the sixth slot in the order. The Mets also received dividends from Jerry Manuel's longtime plan to move Jose Reyes to the third spot in the order. The move took place when the Mets welcomed the Braves to Citi Field and since then they have not lost a game.
Reyes is now hitting in front of Jason Bay and David Wright, and both have seen their offensive game wake up since the shakeup. And just think: Carlos Beltran is still missing from their lineup (he's not due back until sometime around the All-Star Break, recovering from offseason knee surgery).
So, in the span of about three weeks, manager Jerry Manuel went from being on the hot seat, to being on the throne of the NL East. The Mets face their biggest test of the early season on Saturday, as they go up against Roy Halladay. Mike Pelfrey takes the ball for the Mets, and even though it's only May 1, the result of this game could swing the pendulum far in one direction.
April showers might have brought May flowers, but they have also brought the Mets the NL East lead. Only time will tell how long they are able to hold that lead.
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