Sunday, April 8, 2012
Why were the Mets able to sweep?
By Mike Mazzeo
The Mets are 3-0. The Yankees are 0-3.
Who thought we’d be talking about those records after the opening series of the 2012 season?
(No one, because it’s only happened two times in history: 1973 and 1985.)
The Mets, who were written off by many after they shed $50 million in payroll amid the Madoff scandal, are off to their best start 2007, when they won their first four games that year.
Oh, and they also have sole possession of first place in the NL East.
So how have they been able to do it?
Starting pitching: Johan Santana looked very much like the Johan Santana of old after throwing five shutout innings in his first start since Sept. 2, 2010 on Opening Day. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey followed Santana’s strong performance up by going six innings and giving up just two runs on Saturday, while Jon Niese took a no-hit bid into the seventh on Sunday. During their three-game sweep of the Braves, Santana, Dickey and Niese combined to give up just six runs (four earned) in 17 innings, which translates into a 2.12 ERA. Not bad, huh?
Bullpen: GM Sandy Alderson basically put all of the Mets' financial resources into improving a bullpen that finished 28th in ERA last season (4.33) -- and so far its worked. New York’s pen allowed just one earned run over its first 10 innings of the season (0.90 ERA). Tim Byrdak, Bobby Parnell and Jon Rauch have been especially impressive in their specialty/setup roles, while newcomer Frank Francisco doesn’t look like the closer that couldn’t get anyone out in spring training. Francisco saved all three games during the series, and became the first player in franchise history to save his first three games with the club.
Lineup depth: The Mets may have lost Jose Reyes, but they haven’t missed a beat so far (OK, so they haven’t stolen a base yet, but you get the idea). From top to bottom -- with the exception of Ike Davis (0-for-11) -- they’ve all hit. David Wright is hitting .667 with a home run and three RBIs. Lucas Duda had the first two-homer game of his career on Saturday. Even Ruben Tejada, thrust into the leadoff spot after Andres Torres was placed on the disabled list with a strained left calf, had a carer-high four hits on Sunday. And with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, Jason Bay eclipsed his RBI total from spring training (zero). The Mets might be short on superstars, but their lineup makes opposing pitchers battle, which should bode well moving forward.
The manager: Terry Collins doesn’t care what others think of his team. He believes in the 25 guys in his clubhouse. “We did a lot of talking in the spring about getting ready to compete,” he said. “I told those guys in our first meeting, ‘You’re professional baseball players, and there are expectations in this clubhouse. Get yourself ready to play,' and they’ve done that.” Collins knows he doesn’t have the Yankees’ lineup or the Angels’ pitching staff, but that doesn’t matter. He hasn’t made excuses, nor has his team. They’ve just gone out and executed.
Are the Mets going to go 162-0? No. But it appears that they’re going to compete every game, and maybe, just maybe -- even though three games is too small a sample size to tell us much -- they’re better than we thought.