Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tough Mudders

For about 6 consecutive seasons, whenever the Mets would go into Philadelphia, no matter what time of year or what miserable weather, you could expect that Steroid Field II Citizens Bank Park would be filled to the gills with obnoxious, mustachioed fans that liked to drink a lot and pass all kinds of judgements on your parents and life preferences if you didn't root for their team. Didn't matter if the Phillies won or lost. But those days have passed and the Phillies Dynasty has come to a crashing end, reduced to a roster decimated by aging stars with huge contracts choking the team's payroll, combined with a general dearth of young talent due to years of poor/failed draft picks and a win-now attitude. The result is a night like tonight, where, after a 90-minute rain delay and a few trips down Mets Memory Lane, the Phillies finally took the field for their first game of the season against their hated rival...in front of a mild audience that made Citi Field on a late September night look like a sellout crowd.

The Mets didn't come out and bombard Cole Hamels like they've been known to do on occasion, tonight, they really just kind of pecked him to death. They started slow, with some single hits in the early innings. Then, they started to string together some hits, punctuated by an RBI single from Daniel Murphy in the 3rd. In the 4th, Hamels continued to struggle, allowing two more runs on a long hit from Josh Satin and the always-galling bases-loaded-walk-to-the-opposing-pitcher. Still, Ryne Sandberg stuck with his ace, whom the Mets have generally handled fairly well ever since he opened his trap several years ago (further proof that this rivalry hasn't died). Hamels rewarded him by allowing 3 more runs in a 5th inning that he failed to finish, punctuated by a 2-run single by, of all people, Ruben Tejada. It was here that Hamels walked off the mound with his trademark puss on his face in favor of Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez Roberto Hernández.

But by then the damage was done and the only thing really left to chance was whether or not the Mets could get the game through 5 innings before the Heavens opened again. Though it certainly looked quite unpleasant at times, they somehow managed to play through the worst of the rain and ended up getting through 5 and then some. Jon Niese had a big hand in this; he continued the string of solid Mets starting pitching performances with a 7-inning effort that saw him give up 4 hits and 1 run in pretty dire conditions—though dire conditions don't seem to bother Niese. He punctuated his outing by striking out the side in the 7th inning, before giving way to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who did not take the mound in his ski cap, and Jose Valverde, who gave up several fly balls that fortuitously did not leave the slight confines of Citizens Bank Park.

All this being said, the Mets came away with a 6-1 victory that put them 4 games above .500 for the first time since 2012. And, of course, they got a lesson that they are not the only team that plays in a stadium with a severe wind tunnel that can increase the wind chill factor by a good 10˚. It must have been really cold, particularly if the players were making a thing about the frigid conditions on the postgame show. But maybe this bodes well for the Mets. If they're used to playing in football weather to begin with, why would it make a difference if they run across that weather on the road, where they play well anyway?

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