Last night, former teammates Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon matched up at Citi Field to the delight of me and 28,112 other fans at the park and to the larger baseball world watching on TV.
DeGrom was brilliant, hitting 98 mph on the radar gun and holding the Braves scoreless for six innings while allowing two hits and striking out six.
But somehow Colon managed to outshine the Mets’ star. Fans came out to see Colon, giving him a standing ovation during his first at-bat. The Mets realized the significance of the moment and produced a video tribute to Colon they showed before the start of the game.
Mets’ hitters were just as baffled by Colon as most of the National League was during his three-year tenure in New York. Jay Bruce hit a solo home run in the fifth inning. Yoenis Cespedes managed a single. That was it. The pitcher’s duel was delivered as advertised.
Except this is 2017, and starting pitchers are done after six innings. Terry Collins pulled deGrom after 95 pitches. Brian Snitker lifted Colon for a pinch hitter after just 80 pitches.
The Mets start the season with significantly better odds of winning the World Series than the Atlanta Braves, but after the first two games of the season it looks like they share a common weakness – their bullpens. Hansel Robles‘ seventh inning meltdown last night wasn’t as spectacular as Eric O’Flaherty‘s on Opening Day, but it was enough to allow the Braves to tie the game before Jerry Blevins came in to bail him out.
The two teams continued to match zeroes as the temperature dropped and the crowd diminished, until Rafael Montero gave up a leadoff single to Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki in the top of the twelfth. After striking out Jace Peterson, Montero walked Ender Inciarte. When Dansby Swanson grounded out weakly to first base, I started to hope Montero could escape from the jam. But he couldn’t get Matt Kemp out to end the inning – his two-run double provided the Braves with their margin of victory.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Montero is the next man up if anything happens to one of the Mets’ starting five.
A few weeks ago, we were all talking about the Mets’ starting pitching depth and debating who should get the last spot in the rotation. Now Sandy Alderson is beginning to “sniff around” for starting pitching depth and Seth Lugo is trying to remain optimistic about avoiding Tommy John surgery for his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
We’re less than 24 hours away from the start of the 2017 baseball season… for some reason, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays get the honor of playing the very first game at 1:10 p.m. The marquee match-up of the day pits the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs against their St. Louis rivals at 8:35 p.m. (I doubt I will manage to stay up to watch the end of it.)
The game I’ve been looking forward to since Madison Bumgarner shut out the Mets last October 5th will happen on Monday as the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets kick off their 2017 campaigns. The Braves will be better as they begin their first year in a new stadium (let’s hope they’re still using it by the time the local taxpayers finish footing the bill.)