By Mike Steffanos
Game 1: Mets 7 - Marlins 2
When Jose Reyes stepped into the batter's box Mark Hendrickson this afternoon in Miami, the Mets finally had the opportunity to leave 2007 behind. Johan Santana was as good as he had to be, the bullpen pitched a couple of scoreless innings, and the offense did enough to win. Best of all, we now can talk about this year rather than last.
Just a few thoughts:
Santana's stuff looked good, not great. He was being squeezed by home plate ump Rick Reed all afternoon. Still, he held the Fish to 2 runs on 3 hits over 7 innings. It's great to have that kind of pitcher again.
The offense was a mixed bag today. 6 of the 7 runs scored in the fourth inning. They worked Hendrickson for 36 pitches that inning, and scored 4 of those runs after 2 were out. But then they allowed Nolasco to blank them over the next 3 innings on only 35 total pitches. Finally, they worked Matt Lindstrom a little in the ninth and scratched out an insurance run. You'd love to see more consistency than that in taking good at bats.
I've heard some questioning over the way Randolph used his bullpen, but I liked it. Matt Wise started the eighth with a 4-run lead. Amezaga had a solid hit leading off, then Wise got Hanley Ramirez to pop out. Uggla had an infield hit on a ball that Reyes should have played more aggressively. Not a great outing, but not as bad as some are making it out to be.
Willie brought in Schoeneweis to face Mike Jacobs. He induced a soft grounder to first for the second out, but both runners advanced. Instead of screwing around and leaving Schoeneweis in there against Josh Willingham, Willie brought in Jorge Sosa, who was able to strike out Willingham on a 3-2 slider. Then rather than bringing in Wagner with a 5-run lead, Willie let Heilman pitch an uneventful ninth. I think we got some previews here of why the bullpen is going to be better this season:
Matt Wise -- This is a guy who was great two years ago, struggled somewhat in 2006, and then was very, very good last season until hitting a batter in late July. Look at his splits month-by-month last season. The league was hitting .213/.252/.346 in the first half. I think he has a chance to bounce back nicely. Keep in mind that he'll be pitching the innings Guillermo Mota was pitching last year, and I think we have quite an upgrade here.
Next, Scott Schoeneweis. Willie used him the right way today -- one LH batter and then out. Good bullpen management is using your pitchers in ways that maximize their effectiveness rather than expose their weaknesses.
Finally, I think Sosa is a major upgrade over Aaron Sele in the long role precisely because you can use him in other spots, like facing Willingham today. Sosa's slider gives them a different look in a short role, and he can pitch long innings, too. They're much more versatile with Sosa.