New York Mets' Pitching and Clutch Hitting Leads to Series Victory over Marlins
The New York Mets opened their season on a positive note, taking two of three from the division rival Florida Marlins.
Things didn't start out too well as Mike Pelfrey wasn't on his game Friday night, but the Mets played stellar baseball over the next two games.
After not winning a road series in 2010 until the middle of June, they did so to open the 2011 season and won the rubber game in convincing fashion. Their pitching was fabulous and their hitting looked potent.
New manager Terry Collins looked like he knows what he's doing in making some great decisions, especially when using his bench.
Continue reading for a complete breakdown of the Mets' series win in Miami, with who came through and who struggled the most, plus a brief look ahead to the Phillies series starting on Tuesday.
Biggest Impact: Willie Harris
Who would have ever imagined that Willie Harris would've made the biggest impact in the Mets' opening series of the season? He did, though, really leading the Mets offense from the opening game.
He recorded the Mets' first hit of the season, helping them avoid embarrassment against Josh Johnson on Friday. He smacked a double to lead off the seventh inning, breaking up Johnson's no-hit bid.
On Saturday night, he's the reason the Mets won. His two-run double in the 10th inning gave the Mets a three-run lead and, given that Blaine Boyer gave up a run in the bottom of the inning, his hit was the difference in the game.
On Sunday, he began the Mets' offensive explosion against Javier Vazquez. After Jose Reyes led the game off with a double, Harris hit a two-run home run to put the Mets on the board.
It was quite a surprising series for Harris, considering he hit below .200 with the Nationals last season. He was the perfect spark plug, starting two games and batting second between Reyes and Wright.
Manager Terry Collins said in his postgame press conference on Sunday that he'll have to find Harris playing time against right-handers. With Jason Bay still on the disabled list, Harris could take playing time away from Lucas Duda.
At least Harris is now killing teams for the Mets, opposed to killing the Mets with fantastic catches.
Room for Improvement: Mike Pelfrey
Perhaps the only player on the Mets who didn't come through over the weekend was Mike Pelfrey. After being handed the role as ace of the starting staff with Johan Santana out for at least half the season, Pelfrey matched up with Marlins ace Josh Johnson for a couple of innings on Friday.
It didn't last long, as he allowed a grand slam to catcher John Buck in the fourth inning. It was a bad time to give up four runs with one swing, as Johnson was on top of his game.
The feeling was Pelfrey would have to limit making bad pitches this season, considering he's going up against tough pitchers as most aces do. He had a bad spring training, but he didn't have a good spring in 2010 and started that season off great.
It looked like he reverted back to his mid-2010 ways: not controlling his pitches and only sticking to fastballs.
If the Mets are going to rely on him as much as other guys like Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, he has to start pitching like a Johnson.
It didn't work out for Pelfrey, but fortunately for him, his teammates bailed him out with two big wins.
Big Numbers: Ike Davis
His rookie season was one of the best in Mets history, leading to the question: Will Ike Davis suffer through the sophomore slump?
If this weekend was any indication, the answer is no.
Davis had a great two games after going 0-for-3 on Friday, collecting two doubles on Saturday and homering on Sunday. He's hitting .364 and looks like he's primed for a monster season.
With Carlos Beltran resting his knee on Sunday, Davis was moved up to the cleanup spot where he hit a lot last season. He didn't have terrific career numbers there, but was part of the Mets' attack on Vazquez.
He's hitting the ball sharply and by altering his swing a little bit this season, he should cut down on the high number of strikeouts he had in his rookie season.
If Davis can stay consistent like the other veterans should, it would help make the lineup very dangerous from top to bottom.
Niese and Dickey Set the Tone
It was disappointing for the Mets to see their new ace not come through to open the season, but what they got the next two games is very promising.
Both Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey handed in great performances, with Dickey quieting critics once again.
On Saturday, with the Mets needing a victory, Niese settled down after a shaky first inning. He allowed two runs in that inning, but that was all he would allow.
He didn't earn the victory because Francisco Rodriguez blew his first save chance of the season, but Niese got his second full season off to a great start. His total line was seven innings, two runs, four hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
Up next was Dickey, who delivered a fine outing to help the Mets take the opening series. He was on cruise control until he attempted an extremely slow knuckleball that bounced in front of the plate. That kind of threw him off and although after the game he said it was coincidence, he battled through control problems to get the win.
All of last season critics did not believe in his ability to continue to pitch well as a late bloomer, but once again, Dickey silenced those people.
Other than Pelfrey, the Mets have to be very pleased with how their starting pitching looked.
Terry Collins First Series as Manager in 12 Years Was Terrific
No one knows what to expect from a manager who hasn't managed in the big leagues in 12 years. That was Terry Collins' situation, and he looked pretty good in his first series. He looked like he knows what he's doing, and he seems to be very aggressive.
He's supposedly very aggressive in the clubhouse with his players and that's the way he manages. The biggest signs of that comes from how he handled the bench.
He manages to win late in games, making any moves necessary to have someone get the job done. The biggest example of that was when he pinch-ran for Ike Davis on Saturday in a key situation, being forced to place Daniel Murphy at first base. He compromised the team's defense in a tight game, but he only cared about getting the run in and therefore wanted someone with more speed than Davis.
He's made some interesting moves with starting pitchers as well. On Friday, he pulled Mike Pelfrey before he got through five innings and the biggest shocker was his handling of Jon Niese.
The young left-hander got through seven innings with a low pitch count of 87, but Collins went to the bullpen in the eighth inning.
Later on in that game, he hit for closer Francisco Rodriguez, not allowing him to finish the game again in the 10th inning that he blew. In past years, Jerry Manuel would bring his closer back in to attempt to finish the game for a second time.
It's very interesting how Collins is managing and the buttons he's pressing, but it seems to fit the team pretty well.
Mets' Next Series: Three Games at the Phillies Starting Tuesday
After an exciting weekend in Miami and spending the last seven weeks in warm Florida, the Mets will finally head back to the Northeast.
They'll begin a three-game series with the hated rival Phillies on Tuesday night, looking to win some more games in the early going.
The two teams split the 18 games played last season and the Mets actually shut the Phillies out over a three-game sweep in May at Citi Field.
This season's Phillies team features four starters who could all be aces, and the Mets will see two of them.
The Phillies swept the Astros this weekend to begin their season 3-0. Here's a look at the pitching matchups for the three games:
Tuesday, April 5 at 7:05 p.m.
New York Mets: Chris Young (2010 with Padres: 2-0, 0.90 ERA)
Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels (2010: 12-11, 3.06 ERA)
Wednesday, April 6 at 7:05 p.m.
New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey (2011 in 1 start: 0-1, 10.39 ERA)
Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Blanton (2010: 9-6, 4.82 ERA)
Thursday, April 7 at 3:05 p.m.
New York Mets: Jon Niese (2011 in 1 start: 0-0, 2.57 ERA)
Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay (2011 in 1 start: 0-0, 1.50 ERA)