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Braves outlast Mets as Colon makes his return to Citi Field

Bartolo Colon throws a pitch at Citi Field in his first game as an Atlanta Brave. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Bartolo Colon throws a pitch at Citi Field in his first game as an Atlanta Brave. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

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.

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There IS tying in baseball

For the first time since the Kansas City Royals defeated the Mets on November 1st last year, I was able to watch them play a baseball game today.

Sure, the stakes were much lower…today’s contest was just an exhibition, which was allowed to end as a 4-4 tie. And some of the players on the field at the end of today’s game will finish their professional careers with the same number of major league at bats as me.

But it was baseball, and especially for a few moments while we watched Dilson Herrera turn a wind-blown fly ball into an inside-the-park home run, it was magical.

Today wasn’t all fun and games in Mets-land. (Terry Collins says that “fun time” is over, anyway, though better bloggers than me disagree.)

Jacob deGrom refused to sign an autograph on his 2016 contract.Though he will still make more money this year than most Mets fans, deGrom rightly feels that the Mets’ $607,000 doesn’t reflect his value to the team. He’s hardly the first pre-arbitration player to go down this road, and definitely won’t be the last.

And even before today’s Mets game was over, the story was largely forgotten… thanks to an interview Jenrry Mejia gave to the New York Times.

The-Truth-Is-Out-ThereWe all wanted to know how Mejia could get suspended not once, not twice, but three times in less than a year for failing drug tests for steroids.Well, Mejia gave us an answer today… though it sounds like something for Agents Mulder and Scully to investigate.

Mejia said that baseball officials told him that if he appealed the punishment for the second doping offense, “they will find a way to find a third positive,” Mejia, who is from the Dominican Republic, said through an interpreter. “I felt there was a conspiracy against me. I feel that they were trying to find something to bring me down in my career.”

Maybe those who didn’t think A-Rod‘s case was handled fairly, or those who still believe Ryan Braun‘s original claims of innocence can find a shred of credibility in Mejia’s allegations.

The best I can do is ask: Wouldn’t Mejia be smart enough to come up with something better if he was just going to make up a story? (Of course, we’re talking about somebody who is barred from practicing his chosen profession for failing three separate drug tests…)

But really, even if you do believe Major League Baseball had an axe to grind against A-Rod…how is a player on Mejia’s level even worth planning a conspiracy against? Outside of the New York area, how many people had even heard of him prior to his “lifetime” ban?

For the record, a spokesperson for Major League Baseball denied Mejia’s allegations. However, the former pitcher has retained a labor lawyer and appears to be keeping his options open. It would be interesting to find out if Mejia has any evidence to support his assertions.

But enough of the ugly side of baseball. Spring training is well underway, Opening Day is less than a month away and a new season lies ahead of us. Let’s try to enjoy it.

 

World Serious

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I really love the back page of the New York Post today.

Today was the first official day of spring training for the Mets, but that means even less than usual when most of the Mets players have been working out in Port St. Lucie for days already. Still, any sign that baseball season is on the way is welcome…Let’s go Mets!