The Mets moved to 4-0 in 2012 against their erstwhile nemesis the Atlanta Braves with a 6-1 victory at Turner Field tonight.
Dillon Gee was simply masterful. The combination of his poise and location, along with the increased use of his curve, had the Braves off balance all night, with Gee striking out five and inducing eleven groundouts. There were few hard hit balls all night.
The Braves got on the board first when Jack Wilson’s groundout drove in Brian McCann in the bottom of the 2nd. The Mets quickly tied it up in the top of the 3rd on a walk to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who headed to second on a bad pickoff throw from Tommy Hanson, followed by a Gee sacrifice and a Ruben Tejada RBI groundout. That would end the scoring for the next three innings, largely due to Jason Bay’s phenomenal over-the-fence, home run saving catch on a long shot by Wilson; Gee clapped in relief and retired the next two Braves.
After Gee struck out to lead off the 6th, Tejada slammed his league-leading 6th double to left center, and moved to 3rd on a Murphy groundout to the right side. Wright then was intentionally walked, and Ike Davis came up having grounded out twice. Hanson fed him curve after curve, and it looked at first as though Ike would again soon take a seat in the dugout. He did, but after rounding the bases—he blasted Hanson’s 5th curve far over the right field fence for a 3-run HR that would prove to be the game-winning hit tonight.
The Mets added another run with Thole scoring on a Hanson wild pitch in the top of the 7th and Jason Bay matched his defensive solo HR with one off his bat to center in the top of the 9th to top off the 6-1 win.
As has been the case with surprising regularity in this young season, the bullpen was excellent. Jon Rauch came in for the 8th and followed a Bourn single with two flyouts and a groundout. Tim Byrdak came in for the 9th and got Uggla to fly out, then struck out Heyward and Hinske to end the game.
Player of the Game:
Dillon Gee was just fantastic tonight. He mixed in his curve along with his 90+ mph fastball and excellent changeup and had the Braves hitting weak grounders all night. He also had two sacrifice bunts which contributed to the Mets’ non-HR runs, and also fielded his position very well. After Thole’s catcher’s interference erased what appeared to be a double play and gave the Braves two on with no outs in the 7th, Gee dug in and retired the next three Braves on two Ks and a groundout. Gee appeared tonight to be a pitcher with vastly more potential than during the latter part of 2011 and showed amazing poise and maturity; even more impressive is that it was his 8th start against the Braves and they definitely don’t have him figured out. If Pelf and Gee continue to pitch as they did the last two days, this team is going to keep winning.
Play of the Game:
Jason Bay’s solo HR on defense. The maligning of Bay’s defense when the Mets signed him is perhaps the greatest example of Met-related media and blogger bloviation since the Legend of Gritty McHudson. Just as the tales of Hudson’s leadership and being a “great clubhouse guy” were utterly baseless fabrications, the same was true of the reports of Bay’s being “defensively challenged.” Now yes, the contract was Omar’s last great gift, and Bay on offense has been an unmitigated disaster. But he really is a pretty good left fielder. With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the 5th, his perfectly timed leap to snare a would-be HR from Jack Wilson was majestic. A great moment, even more so in the midst of a tight 1-1 battle, this play showed what some of us may have been missing about Bay: his heart and—yes, I am going to say it—his grit. After the concussion two years ago, he could be excused for being shy around outfield walls. But he’s not. Bravo to Jason Bay for making a clutch, highlight reel, run-preventing play.
What’s to Like:
The increasingly unbelievable pitching. The starters are giving high quality starts every day; none of this 6 IP/3 ER nonsense. Once again a starter pitched great. 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Another shutdown performance by the pen with Rauch and Byrdak allowing one meaningless single and getting six outs from the seven batters they faced. The Mets have yet to face a formidable offense, but still, these are major league teams they are facing, and they have now allowed three runs or less in six of their ten games, and more than five runs just once. This is a recipe for a lot of wins.
Ike Davis’ resilience and maturation. In his first two at bats, Ike grounded out pretty weakly. In the top of the 6th, Hanson threw curve after curve; Ike battled, and with two strikes on him, Ike patiently waited for yet another curve, and blasted it to RF for a huge 3-run HR. Ike has started slowly and seems to be heating up with HRs in the last two games, but even more than this, it was the presence and discipline he displayed in finally mastering Hanson’s curve which was the offensive highlight of this game.
Josh Thole continuing to hit. Thole continues to tantalize and give the impression that he can indeed be a good hitter with a fine OBP for a catcher. He’s still learning to play his position, so his detractors may do well by relaxing and being patient with this hard-nosed young player. Even if he made the all-time blooper reel over the weekend.
What’s Not to Like:
Not much tonight. Not much at all. Except maybe armchair experts who still criticize Dan Warthen.
What’s Trivial But Interesting:
David Wright now has reached base at least twice in all seven games in which he has played this year. His intentional walk in the 6th helped set up the 3-run HR by Ike…Jason Heyward appears to be possibly regaining his form, with two well-hit singles which continued his hot hitting…dating back to last year, the Mets have now won 12 of 18 from the Braves.
Tomorrow night at 7:10 Johan Santana takes his 0.90 ERA and opposes 22-year-old Randall Delgado who will be making his 9th MLB start.
It’s getting more and more difficult to deny what this team is beginning to look like. After the two losses to the Nats they went into Philly and won the first two. They followed yesterday’s rare bullpen implosion by going to Turner Field and decisively beating the Braves, and they have Johan going tomorrow. Gritty? Gutty? You decide.
It’s just ten games, but it’s been a revelatory and thrilling ten games. Let’s move to 8-3 tomorrow.