Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Late in spring training, a scout who was trailing the Mets said - unprompted - that he believed the club renowned for its pitching was going to hit more than most thought. "They're going to surprise some people scoring runs," the scout noted.
Saturday's 11-8 victory over the Nationals in Washington, D.C. was a ringing endorsement of that opinion. Who knows if the Mets lineup will gorge all year, but at least for one day the offense sparkled enough to gloss over forgettable performances by Noah Syndergaard and Seth Lugo.
If you weren't already thrilled about Pete Alonso's potential and Jeff McNeil's ability to pile up hits, just glance at Saturday's box score. McNeill had the fourth four-hit game of his career and Alonso was 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI and a run. J.D. Davis hit a two-run single to give the Mets the lead for good.
Amed Rosario is working at-bats better. Wilson Ramos is hitting. The Mets scored 11 times on 14 hits, none of which was a home run. Maybe they truly will be better than the club that finished 23rd in runs last year.
One of the doubles Alonso hit was clocked at 113.8 miles per hour, according to MLB's Statcast, further evidence of Alonso's remarkable raw power. "Pistol Pete, the Polar Bear, trying to knock down outfield walls," Syndergaard quipped to reporters after the game.
Now the bad news: Syndergaard, the Mets' No. 2 starter (or No. 1A, if you prefer), could not follow up Jacob deGrom's Opening Day excellence. Thor allowed four runs and seven hits, four for extra bases, in six innings. The Mets staked him to a three-run lead twice - 3-0 and 4-1. But when he departed following the sixth, the score was tied at 4.
Afterward, Mickey Callaway told reporters Syndergaard helped keep the Mets in the game, adding: "He did exactly what a starter should do."
Ugh. Let's hope the bar has not fallen that low for Syndergaard, who possesses truly nuclear stuff. He should, of course, be better than he was on Saturday and likely will be.
And there were some glimmers of brilliance on Saturday. With Syndergaard, there usually are, regardless of what the final line looks like.
He struck out Anthony Rendon, probably the Nationals' best player, to end the fifth inning with the potential tying run in scoring position and a full count. Syndergaard uncorked a 98-mph fastball that grazed the outside corner of the plate and rendered Rendon helpless for a called strike three.
Earlier in the frame, Syndergaard, whose problems controlling the running game are well-known throughout baseball, picked off Victor Robles at first. Count that as a positive.
Overall, though, Syndergaard told reporters it was "kind of a mediocre outing, with mediocre results," a truer assessment than what Callaway offered. Syndergaard was particularly unhappy with his slider, which he said, "really sucked."
But let's not overreact to Day One for Thor. Hopefully, for the Mets' sake, he's got 30 or so more starts left, plenty of time for dominance. And there's plenty of time for Lugo, who gave up four unearned runs in a ninth that was so rocky closer Edwin Diaz had to wrangle the final out.
This win was more about the Polar Bear, the Squirrel (McNeil), the Buffalo (Ramos) and the rest of the Mets hitters, all of who should seek animal nicknames now, too.
The Buffalo doubled in two runs in the first inning, scored three times and even legged out an infield hit (!). Dom Smith knocked in two runs with a ninth-inning single, too. Memo to Dom: Lobby to be dubbed the "Lion" or something cool like that.
Hey, on days like Saturday, the Mets bats can be fierce, so much so that it's easy to believe what the scout saw this spring could carry on all year. The Mets will need that offense, especially on the days their arms aren't sharp.