Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Everything In Its Right Place

Monday's season lid-lifter at Citi Field was about everything you could ask for as far as the results of the first game of the season. The weather, which had heretofore been kind of dicey and in April at Citi Field can be downright brutal, suddenly turned bright and sunny and warm at around 11am, right around the time I arrived at Citi Field. George was with me as per usual, marking what I believe is 11 of the last 13 Opening Day games we've been present for. Howie Rose was on the field by 12:40 to blow the Shofar and welcome us to the 2017 National League season in New York, fans warmly welcomed back our team, as well as some fondly-remembered players on the opposing side, and then it was business time. Noah Syndergaard hit the mound and pitched, well, basically the way you'd expect him to pitch, mixing things up, getting out of jams and keeping the Braves off the scoreboard until a blister forced him from the game after 6 innings. The Mets had a hard time with Julio Teheran—because they always have a hard time with Julio Teheran—until he departed in the 7th, where the Mets capitalized on a replay reversal and then bombed the Atlanta bullpen into submission and cruised home with a 6-0 victory to start their season.

It had been some time since I'd seen George; this offseason has been somewhat checkered for me and certainly from a mental standpoint, though I might not have been especially prepared for it, I was more than ready to get back to the sanctuary of Citi Field. But at any rate I spent most of the pregame discussing with him reasons why I believe now that the Mets are going to win the World Series this season, and really, what it boils down to more than anything is that it's simply their time in the arc of this era, if this era of the Mets is going to be what we want it to be. They had the near-miss, they had the regression and somehow turned it into another near-miss, so now, it's time to strike.

But that was preamble and there was still the matter of seats and ceremonies and concessions and hordes of people to work through. I'd mentioned I upgraded my seats; after four years of bouncing between sections 512 and 513, I've moved down to 418, because it's just time for a change. However, the Mets for whatever reason decided to get cute and put me in different seats for Opening Day. Different seats being Section 106, sure, it's the Field level, but it's jammed down in the Right Field Corner. Not exactly where I would have preferred to sit. For one, you can't see the field directly in front of you. Two, you can't see the scoreboard above Right Field, which is where important things like pitch count and scoring calls are generally displayed. Three, because it's the Field Level, and because of the assorted "entertainment" options down there, it seems to be more crowded than the Promenade, and for whatever reason it seems there are substantially fewer restrooms, which is problematic...

...and as you can see in this video, you're kind of displaced from the action. But on the upside I got a real good view of Syndergaard's pregame routine.

Also a lovely view of Bartolo Colon's backside as he was introduced to a roaring ovation.

And then it was time to introduce our guys...

...and get hyped...

...And, finally, get on with the show!

The game from that point was a little bit of a blur, for a few reasons. For one, I, and this should illustrate how ill-prepared I was for Opening Day, didn't eat anything before the game. I almost always get something to eat before the game but for whatever reason, I waited. At the end of the 1st inning, I got up to use the restroom, thinking it would be quick and painless. WRONG. I attempted to use the restroom by Section 103 only to find the line stretching across the concourse and in fact splitting into two lines because everyone stopped caring. So that was already a clusterfuck. Then, I decided to get something to eat while I was up, and found the most palatable line to be at the Sausage stand by Section 105. Only I got on line somewhere in the bottom of the 2nd inning and didn't return to my seat until the top of the 4th. That's a bad job by me. It's a bad job by everyone, really, because there were rumblings of credit card terminals down, but really, it was a bad job by me. That's the kind of rookie move I don't usually make.

Fortunately, in this digital age, I was able to look at my phone and catch up on my scorecard. Of course, I sat down just in time for Freddie Freeman to bang one off the Right Field fence and after Jay Bruce mangled the carom, what should have been a double was a triple and the Braves were primed to strike first. Except that Syndergaard is unmoved by these kind of things and responded by putting the Baseball version of a sleeperhold on the Braves, striking out Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis to end the threat. More trouble unfolded in the 6th when Dansby Swanson and Freeman singled and Atlanta had runners on 1st and 3rd and 1 out, but, again, Syndergaard brushed this aside by striking out Kemp again and getting Markakis to fly out, ending the threat and, of course, thanks to the infamous blister, ending his afternoon.

Still, the Mets offense was stagnant against Teheran, which as I said wasn't terribly surprising since the Mets always have trouble with him. But he too departed after 6 and the Mets attacked the Braves patently awful bullpen right away. Ian Krol was first up and he allowed a hit to Rene Rivera. Wilmer Flores followed, pinch hitting for Hansel Robles, and after being greeted with his usual standing ovation, grounded into a Fielder's choice. He then stole 2nd Base, which I suppose was his way of taking advantage of the Braves kind of falling asleep on him. Jose Reyes walked and then Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a clean single to center for his 3rd hit of the day. Flores was sent home, which if you'll recall is the play that finished his season last year, and although it seemed close he was called out at the plate. However, were I sitting in my normal seats, high up and behind Home Plate, I would have seen that Flores snuck his foot in ahead of the tag. Replay, of course, reversed the call, Flores had the first run of the season for the Mets, and the gates opened up from there. There were pitching changes, walks, more pitching changes, more walks and finally the carcass of Eric O'Flaherty was on the mound and Lucas Duda clanged one off the Center Field fence for a 3-run double that made the score 6-0 and removed any particular drama from the afternoon. Fernando Salas for the 8th, a surprise cameo by Robert Gsellman in the 9th, easy enough and off we go!

Certainly, there will be plenty of bad/irritating/exasperating things to happen to the Mets over the course of the subsequent 161 games. That's Baseball. The goal, really, is to minimize the issues and keep putting forth games like this when you are clearly better than your opponent. One of the Mets larger issues in 2016, besides the fact that everyone was hurt and the replacements stopped hitting for 3 months, was their inability to handle inferior teams. I'm pulling numbers out of my ass but I believe they were something like 7-12 against Atlanta and an equivalent of bad against other non-division lousy teams, and those 7 wins were difficult wins. By and large the Mets should win more of these games this season. Yesterday was a good start.

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