With the irksome proceedings of two sparsely scheduled games in Kansas City out of the way, the Mets returned home, and the fun part of the season began.
I hate to qualify it that way, because really, baseball season is the fun part of baseball season and there’s nothing more to be said. But no one who attended or watched can deny the magic of the home opener, when, for just a brief moment, the idealized version of baseball is played out on the field, and anything is possible.
Jacob deGrom, who could be anywhere from one to four in our rotation, took the mound, and like we knew he would be, was as good as ever. Six innings, one run, departure with a tight lat muscle. In previous years, this would have been cause to panic. Somehow, this year feels different.
Maybe it was because of what happened on the field. The Phillies came in, a ragtag band of AAA players who may well lose 100 games this year. We came in confident, a defending league champion. We knew we were going to beat the Phillies, and beat them handily. And then we went out and did exactly that.
How long has it been since we’ve been able to say that? Since we’ve been able to say, right from the beginning of a season, that we were A) overwhelming favorites to win a game, and B) able to deliver and easily win the game in question? It’s been a while, let me tell you. This is what they say good teams do: they win the games they’re supposed to, and give their best effort in everything else.
All of this is not to reduce the action down on the field to a generalization, even if it is a positive one. There was baseball being played, and it wasn’t bad either. Outside of the first and last hitters, everyone in the lineup had at least one hit. Neil Walker had two more RBIs. Michael Conforto had three, and is batting .444. Lucas Duda has a three game hitting streak.
In short, it’s a classic lineup, following a tried and tested formula: if you’ve got the pitching, all you need is a lineup with no easy outs. That’s what Sandy has quietly assembled, even as he stockpiled the greatest rotation any of us have ever seen: we’ve got young, homegrown talent behind the plate, at first base, and in left field. We’ve got not superstars but solid hitters at second and short, a quintessential team player in right, and a slugger, albeit strikeout-prone, in center.
We won’t out-slug the ’27 Yankees, but the ’27 Yankees couldn’t hit much against us either.
After deGrom left with his mysterious tightness, Jim Henderson, the former feel-good project, entered. It’s been mere days, and yet Henderson looks better than anyone could have realistically imagined. He set down the side 1-2-3, with two strikeouts thrown in for good measure. For all the griping about the bridge to Familia, it’s proven, through three games, remarkably solid, and today, because of its firmness, Familia wasn’t even needed, and Antonio Bastardo, another hurler who drew curious stares during Spring Training after rather conspicuously appearing at less than his best, came in instead.
He gave up a single, recorded two strikeouts, and induced Cameron Rupp to ground to Asdrubal Cabrera, and just like that, the Mets’ first home win of the season, and of many more, was in the books.
Beating up on the Phillies. Ah, how I’d missed it, and now that it’s back and expected, ah how wonderful it is. And I’ll be in attendance tomorrow night, in what look to be positively arctic temperatures, looking for my own first win of the season.
Good teams beat up on bad teams. It’s just what they do. And really good teams play just like we did today, and beat up on the bad teams without a second glance.