Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Santana and the Mets Shine in Miami; Everyone Else Loses


So it's only April, yeah, and it's only April 1st, but that being said I couldn't have asked for much more to kick-start the 2008 season and completely bury 2007.

Johan had no opening day butterflies, and was simply brilliant, making one mistake to the Hammer, Josh Willingham, after getting squeezed for a walk the previous batter, hence the two runs. Aside from that blemish, Johan gave all the elements of a well-pitched game that you could ask for. He fanned 8 in 7 IP, at one point downing 4 consecutively, but also mixed up his outs, getting fly balls when it was easy to do so and ground balls, less so, when required. He made a couple of solid plays with the glove, and when he got into trouble, he got out of it. For me, the highlight of his performance was the full-count strikeout of Hanley Ramirez, leaving two runners stranded for the Marlins in their only real shot at a rally.

And then we had
our rally...

And as an aside, yes, I will loosely refer to the Mets as
us, though some folks turn their nose up at it. I will not follow a team day in and day out, on season and off, buy merchandise and buy seats all year, and refer to them as some alien entity with which I have no identifiable connection. They're Us.

But anyhow,
when was the last time we had a rally like that? My guess would be August? Everyone got involved, and the big guys led the way. That is how an offense of this caliber is supposed to function, not scattering hits and relying on the longball, but looking to Wright and Reyes and Beltran to get things churning or finish them off, while the lesser hitters just keep it going in between. Again, this was only day one, but it's all we've got, and I can't think of a better way to get it going. Let me reiterate, too, as always, David Wright was huge, and needs to be the Captain of this team,

Pagan, at least for a day, really earned his spot on this roster, while Ruben Gotay was busy striking out in one pinch-hit AB in a braves uni.

Which leads me to the other news of the day. I have been in Atlanta for over a week now for family/business reasons, and am staying through this weekend to see the Mets come in to town, hitting a peak on Sunday with Santana v. Smoltz. But yesterday, I watched the Met game, happily, and then turned the Braves on. Noticing plenty of empty seats, I decided what the heck, why not go, and sure enough, not only was Turner Field NOT sold out on opening NIGHT, I mean you can't even say you had to go to work, but I got in there, complete in a Mets hat, jersey and '86 starter jacket, for FREE. Some guy just gave me his extra ticket as I walked up to go buy one. What I got was more than I expected. I expected to go antagonize some rednecks, which I did, but what I got was an epic game, with the Braves scoring 5 in the 9th to force extra frames, the last two runs plated on an error on a pop-fly, only to be defeated by good 'ol Xavier Nady, the X-man himself, who belted a 3-run game winning shot about 10 feet away from me in the 12th inning, and also went 4 for 7 with 4 RBI on the night. I wanted to get some angry rednecks and maybe see the Braves lose to a sorry team, and what I got was angry, drunk, tired, heartbroken rednecks and a disgrace of a loss for the Braves. All I can say is This.

Did I mention that Flash Gordon got absolutely Mota'd in the 9th down in Philly? 5 runs on 4 hits in the 9th=it's gonna be Mets-Nats on top all year. (Ok, well...) The Phils still hit like they do, but their criminal of an ace, their hero Brett Myers, was very unspectacular, yielding 4 runs over 5 innings to a weak offense. Day One in the NL East could not have been scripted better.

Elsewhere, the spanks' final opening day at the toilet party was ruined by rain, the Injuns beat the ChiSox in a good one in 10 innings after a horrible interference call that prevented a Chicago run scoring in the 9th. Ozzie Guillen, not so much with the happy.

The Cubbies and Brew Crew duked it out for 8 innings without scoring once, as Sheets and Zambrano were both excellent, and then it got real interesting: Milwaukee scored thrice in the top of the 9th, setting the stage for Eric "le drug buddy de Paul LoDuca" Gagne to walk two batters on 9 pitches to start the bottom half of the 9th. Then stepped in the new guy, Kosuke Fukudome, already 2 for 2 with a walk on the day, who proceeded to take Gagne's 3-1 over the Ivy and outta here. That Japanese guy, he's good. But oh wait a minute...Kerry Wood can't hold the tie in the 10th, Brewers win anyhow, oh well.

Rocktober has clearly come to an end, as the Rox hot finish last year was cooled with a 7-1 thrashing from the RedBirds. Eric Bedard was pretty good in his Mariners debut, Webb outdueled Harang for a Dbacks W, and Peavy did the same to Oswalt as the most boring team in the majors that doesn't play in Oakland won their opener and stayed classy in SD.

The scrappy Royals spoiled the Tigers opener with an unlikely rally, Tampa downed the O's, Barry Zito still ain't worth all that cash, and apparently the Twins will not go winless without Johan or Torii Hunter, the latter of whom got a standing O in Minnesota yesterday, then went 0-4 in a Twins win. And that's that.

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