It took exactly 5 pitches into the bottom of the 1st inning for me to realize that I didn't have to be quite so tense while listening to the game on the radio in my office yesterday afternoon.
That particular 5th pitch, Johan Santana zipped a fastball past Hanley Ramirez, and Howie Rose put the exclamation point on it, "And it's IN THERE FOR A CALLED STRIKE THREE!"
Mets fans, welcome to Johan Santana.
In what was no doubt a vintage Santana performance, 7 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks and 8 Ks over 100 pitches, the only thing left to chance was how the Mets offense would respond. Over the first three innings, Mark Hendrickson got the best of them. Carlos Delgado gave me a horrible flashback, popping out with 2 on and 2 out in the top of the 1st.
Then came the 4th. Then came the flood. It started and ended with a pair of players who look like they're treating every game like it's the 7th game of the World Series. In between, a pair of key hits from a pair of newcomers looking to solidify their spots on the roster.
You can figure, for the most part, that Beltran and Wright will find themselves at the crux of most of the major rallies the Mets will have over the course of this season. The production we see from them is expected. But it's those other pieces that fill out the rest of the lineup that we weren't too sure about. Angel Pagan, for one. Considering that Pagan basically was brought in as an afterthought, but he earned his spot by hitting like a demon during Spring Training and earned a starting job based on Moises Alou's injury. But was this a Huskey-esque mirage? Well, only time will tell. But Pagan certainly helped his cause by solidly stinging a double to left in the 4th inning, driving home Beltran with the first of 6 Mets runs for that inning. Ryan Church followed that up with a hit just as crucial for his cause, the lefty off the lefty Hendrickson. Another run. And when Wright capped off the inning with a ringing 3-run double, I felt comfortable enough shutting the radio off and leaving for home, arriving just in time to see Heilman cap off the game.
A pair of assumed "spare parts" coming up with some momentum-building hits. The little things that a successful team needs in order to be successful.
A trio of newcomers, missing pieces in the puzzle, aiding the Mets to a rousing victory on Opening Day, kicking the season off on the right foot.