MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Mets

Game recap March 31: The injury bug is back

Mets 6, Cardinals 2, final

Thursday’s Opening Day win went about as well as Mickey Callaway could’ve hoped for: a dominant start by Noah Syndergaard, an offense that produced nine runs on twelve hits, and no injuries to report. The win reaffirmed the line of thinking held by Met fans all throughout the offseason; keep the team healthy and they can contend in the NL East. After an injury-riddled 2017 season though, the Mets couldn’t even make it two games before picking up their first twinge of the year.

The Mets returned to Citi Field for the second game of the season opening series against the Cardinals, sending Jacob deGrom out to face Michael Wacha. The righty, debuting his new hair cut, was his usual brilliant self, throwing 5.2 innings of one run ball in his first start of the season. Working with a mid 90s fastball and a high 80s changeup, deGrom mystified the Cardinals, whiffing seven while allowing only four hits on the afternoon. The Mets offense provided plenty of run support early, scoring in the first inning for the second straight game. Todd Frazier got it started with a two-RBI double that scored Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes, but the Mets’ bats weren’t done. After deGrom allowed an RBI single to Jose Martinez in the top of the fourth that cut the lead to one, Travis d’Arnaud came to the plate for his second at-bat of the day. d’Arnaud got his first start of the season Saturday and carried his hot bat with him to Flushing, clubbing the Mets’ first home run of the season in the fourth inning. d’Arnaud’s solo shot would be the deciding run, but Cespedes added to the 3-1 lead in the fifth inning with a solo homer of his own.

deGrom entered the sixth inning nearing 100 pitches and allowed the leadoff man, Tommy Pham, to reach on a soft dribbler to third. A throwing error by Frazier allowed Pham to take second base, but deGrom struck out Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna looking to secure the first two outs of the inning. In his first controversial decision of a season bound to have many, Mickey Callaway made the call to the bullpen, bringing Robert Gsellman in to face Jose Martinez. deGrom was pulled with 101 pitches, as Callaway surely didn’t want to put unneeded strain on his ace in only the second game of the season, but the timing was confusing. The pitcher spot was slated to come up third in the bottom half of the inning, deGrom had just gotten two strikeouts in a row and Callaway planned on going to Gsellman for longer than just one out. Gsellman would deliver though, striking out Martinez to end the Cardinals threat in the top of the sixth. Adrian Gonzalez led off the bottom half of the inning with a single to right, but was thrown out trying to advance to third on a Juan Lagares single. With Lagares on second and only one out, Callaway elected to bat Gsellman, who moved Lagares over to third with a swinging bunt. Although it worked out in this particular case, it’ll be interesting to see how Callaway approaches similar situations during the season, especially when the score is closer.

After Gsellman ran into some trouble in the seventh, Callaway called in Anthony Swarzak with one out and runners on second and third. Swarzak struck out pinch hitter Greg Garcia looking to get the second out, and got Dexter Fowler to fly out to center field to end the inning. Frazier would hit a sacrifice fly to increase the Mets’ lead to 5-1 in the bottom half of the inning, and Callaway sent Swarzak back out to pitch the top of the eighth. Swarzak struck out Tommy Pham to start the inning, but allowed a solo homer to Matt Carpenter that cut the Mets’ lead to three. Two batters later, Callaway was out to the mound again, this time with the training staff by his side. Callaway took the ball from Swarzak and brought on Jeurys Familia and Wilmer Flores in the double switch, sending Adrian Gonzalez to the bench. The Mets added another run on Cabrera’s double in the bottom half of the inning, and Familia pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the Mets second win of the season.

After the game, Swarzak said that he left the game with a sore oblique, but hadn’t undergone X-rays postgame. The former White Sox reliever projects to be a big piece in the Mets bullpen this season after signing a two-year deal in the offseason, so anything worse than a tweak could be an issue.

With Saturday’s win, the Mets have won consecutive games to start a season for the first time since 2013, a year in which Jon Niese started on Opening Day and Marlon Byrd batted fifth behind Ike Davis. The last time the Mets opened the season with a sweep was 2012, when the Metropolitans swept the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field behind Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey and Niese.

The Mets are back at it again on Sunday looking for a sweep over the Cardinals at 1:10 p.m., sending Steven Matz out to face Luke Weaver.

 Photo credit: Gregory J. Fisher – USA Today Sports

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