the unceremonious switch of the Astros from the National League Central to the American League West. The Mets, now playing in a balanced league, would now have to play interleague series at random, arbitrary times, rather than a bunch in June like we're used to. The scheduling geniuses, then, thought it best for the Mets to take a road trip to play the Minnesota Twins in their lovely new open-air Stadium, Target Field, in the middle of April.
One day after a major snowstorm dumped 5 inches of snow in Minneapolis.;
On a night where the temperature was forecast at a brisk 34 degrees.
In a city where they'd never won a game.
These weird Interleague trips to bizarre places they rarely go (Minnesota is among a select group that includes places like Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle) tend not to go well for the Mets. In addition to being swept in Minnesota in 2004, I seem to remember an Interleague road trip in 2005 that saw the Mets lose every game in excruciating fashion. As far as I could tell, although the Minnesota Twins have seen themselves fall on some hard times over the past couple of years, the situation seemed to dictate that the Mets probably would struggle, except for Saturday when Matt Harvey was scheduled to pitch.
So the Mets go out and score 5 runs in the top of the first, beating up Vance Worley with a flurry of hits in between a flurry of snow. You remember Vance Worley, right? He used to pitch for the Phillies. The Mets gave him the ol' what for a couple of times last year. And they did it again tonight. True, Worley wasn't helped by an egregious error by Trevor Plouffe, but by that point he'd already made his own bed. 2 runs were in before Worley ever got an out and instead of stopping the bleeding, Worley instead just gave up more hits.
The second inning was no better, and by time Worley departed, he'd given up 6 runs and conveniently left the bases loaded so that the guy who followed him to the mound could give up a Grand Slam to John Buck, closing his line with 9 runs allowed in 1+ innings.
The rout, as they say, was then on, as the Mets hit parade cruised the rest of the way to a resounding 16-5 victory. Jonathon Niese was mostly adequate; given a large lead, he didn't really look comfortable in the elements and the result was too many pitches too early on and a struggle to simply get through 5 innings. I'd expect better out of him against a bad lineup, but then again, I suppose you can only expect so much from a finesse pitcher in 34 degree weather. Offensively, pretty much everyone joined the hit parade. Jordany Valdespin, who has managed to parlay a few good games into a platoon situation with Collin Cowgill, set the stage in each of the first two innings. Daniel Murphy continued his hot start and continues to make me think that the best thing that could have possibly happened to him was getting hurt and missing most of Spring Training. David Wright looks like he's starting to heat up. And John Buck continues to hit everything in sight. All this added up to a resounding victory, rather than a bizarre loss in a weird American League town.
Ultimately, though the 16-run outburst is a great sign, tonight's win is an indictment of both their own offensive inconsistencies and the general ineptitude of their opponent (As I'd mentioned prior to the season, the Twins business model dictates they operate in some bizarre cycle theory where they're really good for 2-3 seasons and then really bad for 2-3 seasons as they replenish their system. Help is on the way for them, but like the Mets, it's still a year off). But, as inept as your opponent may be, you still have to be able to take advantage of it. Tonight, the Mets did that, but remember they struggled to win a series from Florida last weekend. Then again, Matt Harvey is scheduled for Saturday's game. If 39 degrees and the San Diego Padres in New York didn't bother him, why should the Twins in 34 degrees? I'd guess he could go out in a blizzard and strike out 10 batters in 7 innings.