The Mets' opening series in Washington went as well as we could hope for, but now a real test begins.
The 2022 season got off to a much better start for the New York Mets than 2021 did. If you remember, the Mets were supposed to begin last season with a series against the Nationals, but the entire series was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the Nats. MLB did their infamous "abundance of caution" thing by canceling all the games, and the Mets wound up sitting around for an extra 4 days before beginning their campaign. I always believed that the delay played a part in the Mets' slow start last year, although I would hardly hang all last year's woes on that one thing.
Last year the Mets' season began in Philadelphia, where they dropped 2 of 3. Thanks to the revised schedule, the Mets are heading into Philly next, just like last year. The 3-1 Mets are 1/2 game ahead of the 2-1 Phillies, so I guess you can say that first place in the NL East is on the line. You can also say that there's a long way to go before anything is decided.
Although Sunday's result was, of course, disappointing, it was a pretty good opening series for the Mets. Now, it's very likely that the Nationals will be the cellar dwellers in the NL East this year, but taking 3 of 4 in their ballpark was the sort of "taking care of business" the Mets will need to do if they contend for a playoff spot. While we'll resist the urge to jump to conclusions based on 4 out of 162, here are some observations on what transpired in our Nation's capital those past 4 days:
The Mets made me look pretty good on some of my pre-season notes from my last post. Tylor Megill and Chris Bassit were 2 of my X factors for the season, and both pitched very well.
Megill looked like a seasoned veteran in his start. He's smoothed out his delivery a bit from last year. I mean, it was fine last season but looks even better this year. I don't want to be an idiot and go off the deep end predicting greatness for Tylor, but I think he has a real chance to be a solid mid-rotation starting pitcher for the Mets. As I mentioned Thursday, I could see him getting a playoff start for this team. Megill was a developmental win for the Mets organization, not really hyped as a prospect until last year, just before he came up. Tylor seems to have all the stuff he needs to compete in MLB. Now we'll see if he can hold up under the workload with a year under his belt.
Although I have MLB.tv and flip around through games on occasion, I don't think I ever saw Chris Bassit pitch before seeing him this spring. I'm pretty sure I'd remember that delivery. In my first preview of the Mets' pitching from a month ago, I noted that Bassit had a chance to be this season's Bob Ojeda for the 2022 Mets.
Ojeda came over from the Red Sox in a multi-player trade in November 1985. The primary player going back to Boston was Calvin Schiraldi, who lost both Game 6 and Game 7 to the Mets in the 1986 World Series. Ojeda had a fine season for the Mets in 1986, going 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA. Bob Ojeda really deepened that club's starting pitching, even though he slotted behind Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling in the rotation.
Similarly, Bassit sits behind Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer in this year's rotation. He offers a contrast in style to deGrom and Scherzer in much the same manner that Ojeda's devastating changeup contrasted with the stuff of Gooden and Darling. If Chris Bassit can pitch for this club as well as he did for the A's from 2019-2021, he can be a difference-maker for the 2022 Mets. That first start in Washington was precisely what we Mets fans would hope for.
I also tabbed Drew Smith as a potential X factor in my season preview, and Smith really dominated in his first two appearances: 2 IP, 1 H, 3 K, and 0 BB. If Smith can only stay healthy this season, I think he's an essential late-inning reliever for this club.
The hitters looked fine in their first series, although they didn't deliver Sunday. Although it remains to be seen if the lineup is deep enough, they seem a more well-rounded bunch than last year's group. The Mets have been too reliant on the long ball to score in recent seasons, including last year. This year's hitters look like they can beat you in other ways, which should lead to fewer dry spells.
Mark Canha, the less-heralded of all of the fall signings for the Mets, had the best series in Washington. If he can maintain that .769 OBP all season, he should get a few votes for MVP, n'est-ce pas?
Robinson Cano had a great Opening Day. I really liked the bunt against the shift, and I hope some of the other players were paying attention. However, I was a bit surprised to see Cano get 3 starts in those 4 games. He went 1-8 after his 2-3 in game 1 and didn't look great doing it. I understand that Buck Showalter won't overreact to small sample sizes, but I would have liked to have seen Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis get more chances.
Interesting to see that James McCann and Tomas Nido split the 4-game series. This bears watching going forward.
The Mets will be playing a much better team than the Nats for these next 3 games. They'll be seeing Ranger Suárez, Zack Wheeler, and Aaron Nola in these 3 games. This will be a good early-season road test for the club. I assume runs are going to be tough to come by. Last season the Phillies' best starters really shut the Mets down for the most part, and I'd like to see the Mets compete better this time around.
Please be well and take care. Let's go Mets!
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.
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