NY Mets: Positive signs and question marks from Opening Weekend
The New York Mets experienced some early highs and lows in the opening weekend of the 2020 MLB season.
Before 4:10 pm on Friday, July 24, anything was possible for the New York Mets in 2020. They could go 60-0. Jacob deGrom could miraculously win all of his starts. The bullpen might finish the year with a 0.00 ERA. On Opening Day this year, as with the start of any baseball season, the sky was truly the limit for the Mets.
Opening Weekend for the Amazins was filled with some positive signs about the season to come. Yoenis Cespedes hit a monster home run off of Atlanta Braves pitcher Chris Martin on Opening Day, a booming shot to left field that had Mets fans leaping off of their couches across the tri-state area. He still has to stay healthy for 60 games, but that home run proved that Cespedes still has the bat speed to hit major league pitching.
If he is going to be frequently penciled into the middle of the order as the DH, as he was this weekend, his hitting will be crucial for the team’s success. He didn’t do much damage in the next two games, but hopefully, he has more than one home run in him this year.
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Another positive from this weekend was Steven Matz’s fantastic start on Saturday. Though he did not get the win, his pitches seemed to hum and sizzle into home plate with a little more vigor than we’re used to seeing.
Matz was nearly perfect, the only blemish a second inning home run blast off the bat of Braves DH Adam Duvall that hit Willow McNeil’s cardboard cutout square in the muzzle.
He looked more confident on the mound than I remember, with a bit more swagger a la “Noah Syndergaard on his best days.” If Matz can channel that confidence and effectiveness into the rest of his starts this season, 2020 will be the year where Mets fans all agreed that Matz finally reached his potential.
Despite Edwin Diaz’s blown save on Saturday, the key players in Mets bullpen, for the most part, looked great this weekend. Jeurys Familia turned in a 1-2-3 7th inning in Saturday’s game that gave me shades of his 2015 regular season dominance. His splitter, which is his key put-’em-away pitch, has been working in both of the exhibition games against the Yankees and against the Braves this weekend. If he can keep this up, I wouldn’t mind giving him a shot to close occasionally, especially if Diaz continues to be shaky.
Unfortunately, not everyone was stellar. Corey Oswalt came on in relief of Rick Porcello’s two-inning, seven-run outing on Sunday and gave up five earned runs, seven hits, and three home runs in four innings. On the bright side, this should all but prevent him from starting against the Red Sox on Tuesday. With the Mets’ thin starting pitching depth, that should leave room for David Peterson to get a shot in the big league rotation sooner rather than later.
Luckily, Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson were their usual “ice in their veins” selves. Lugo turned in two scoreless innings in Friday’s game after coming in to relieve Jacob deGrom. Wilson pitched on both Friday and Saturday, coming in clutch in two close games. If these two can be dominant forces in the back end of the Mets bullpen again this year, replicating something close to their 2.54 and 2.70 ERAs from 2019, they will take some pressure off of the Mets offense.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the Mets offense (or lack thereof) from Opening Weekend. Some of the hitters looked locked in, particularly Amed Rosario who had three hits, including a triple, in the first two games. Others did not look quite ready. J.D. Davis, though he hit a ball nearly out of the park on Friday that was snagged by Ender Inciarte, has not been able to catch up to breaking balls in this series. Pete Alonso, despite a hit in the 10th inning on Saturday, has looked a bit over-anxious at the plate.
I’m not losing hope for either player. Alonso and Davis both showed last year that they are formidable major league hitters. 2019 was also the first full big league season for both Alonso and Davis, as Davis only had a handful of at-bats with the Houston Astros before the Mets traded for him.
In the first few games, manager Luis Rojas has not been afraid to mix up the lineups, starting three different players in the leadoff spot in each of the three games. I am curious to see how offensive performance from Alonso, Davis, and the rest of the crew will impact their place in the everyday lineup.
The offense overall has not generated many runs so far (re: five), but I’ll chalk that up to lack of reps against other teams in Summer Camp. Still, this offensive performance is my biggest concern so far this season.
The Mets’ hitters are too talented to be scoring only one run per game. At some point, the bats will wake up, but there is not much time to “get it going.” They need to recapture that clutch magic they found at the end of the 2019 season and play every game like it’s the Michael Conforto walk-off game from last year.
All in all, the Mets did not exactly put on an impressive showing this weekend, losing two out of three to the Braves. Still, there were positives on the pitching side, and I have a feeling the bats will come around. It’s too early to give up hope, Mets fans.
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Even in a 60 game season, there’s a lot of baseball left to be played. As Tug McGraw once said, ya gotta believe!