By Mike Steffanos
Mets 4 - Cardinals 1
I felt pretty good after the Mets won on opening day. I know I was supposed to be filled with regret thinking about what could have been last year, but I wasn't. I guess I didn't get that memo. Instead, I've turned the page and that has allowed me to enjoy watching the Mets open the 2007 season 2-0 behind starting pitchers who are a combined 82 years old. Those 2 wins just feel like 2 nice wins to me, thank you very much.
I love watching El Duque pitch when he is throwing his curveball for strikes. It's like a clinic. Surprisingly he didn't register a single strikeout tonight, but he had the Cardinals off balance for 6 innings, and then managed to survive a seventh inning despite visibly tiring. He threw 62 out of his 104 pitches on the night for strikes, started 2 important double plays and drove in the 2 runs that gave him and the Mets some important breathing room.
Two games does not a season make, but we have seen a blueprint for success for this club. Glavine goes 6, Hernandez 7, and the rebuilt bullpen gets a chance to ease into things. The offense will get better, and the defense is sharp -- which is important to a pitching staff that is solid rather than spectacular.
My big disappointment on the night was Scott Schoeneweis. I could actually forgive the hit he gave up to the left-handed Chris Duncan. What really bothered me was that he walked Eckstein on 4 pitches with 2 outs, and then goes full to Duncan after starting off 0-2 on him. When you have a 3 run lead with Pujols looming, you simply have to throw strikes and make them earn their way on.
Schoeneweis' screw-up forced Heilman to come in and face Dour Albert with 2-outs in the eighth as the tying run. The fastball that Heilman jammed Pujols with on 3-2 was the play of the game. As the harmless fly ball died into Beltran's glove, the Cards' chances expired with it.
While it took Aaron Heilman 6 pitches to retire Pujols, Billy Wagner only needed an economical 8 pitches -- 6 of them strikes -- to retire 3 Redbirds for his first save. Keep that up and I might be able to hold onto at least some of my remaining hair this season.