Wednesday, April 07, 2004


En rout to a season opener 7 to 2 win on the road against the Braves, the Mets found out a few things about themselves. First, Kazuo Matsui is indeed a Major League ball player. Second, and more importantly, the Mets found out that Tom Glavine is still a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

Mets fans could not have scripted a better debut for our new shortstop. Just as Mets fans and brass were worrying about Matsui's poor, injury plagued spring training performance, even questioning whether he should be batting lead-off, Matsui shut the skeptics up. Leading off in the top of the first, Russ Ortiz tried to sneak a fastball by the little Japanese star. Not so fast Russ (no pun intended). Batting from the left side, Matsui drove the ball, Ortiz's first pitch, over the Turner Field center field wall an estimated 429 feet. Matsui was just getting warmed up. In the 2nd inning Matsui was up again this time with Glavine on 3rd base when he turned on a 2/1 pitch driving it down the first base line to deep right field. Glavine trotted home and we are treated to a glimpse of that blazing speed we have heard so much about as Matsui glided into second base with a stand up RBI double. Matsui was up again in the third inning with the bases juiced. Actually, in this BALCO era let's just say the bases were loaded. Anyway, Matsui is facing Juan Cruz who, despite a lack of results, was throwing some nasty stuff. Matsui hung in there to work a full count. He then fouled a pitch off and then took the seventh pitch of the at bat for an RBI walk. Bobby Cox was freaking out in the Atlanta dugout at this point because his pitchers, to him at least,weren't getting the called strikes he thinks they should have. I loved it. With this at bat Matsui showed that he can be aggressive when he needs to and patient when the situation warrants it. No need to swing at junk when the bases are loaded and the meat of the order is backing him up. I don't know if I was more impressed with his 429 foot blast over the center field wall or this at bat. In the fifth, Matsui digs in against Cruz again. He takes two pitches for called strikes but jumps on the third pitch driving the ball to right center for his second double of the night. Our hero is up again in the 7th with runners on third and second. With first base vacant, Bobby Cox (who has regained his composure) isn't going to take any chances with Matsui and puts him on board. So ended The Kaz Matsui Show as he finished going 3 for 3 with 2 BBs (1 IBB) a run, a home run and a pair of doubles.

As good as Matsui was, it's Tom Glavine who gets the nod as The Hot Corner MVP of the Game. No, Glavine did not rack up a ton of strike outs. No, he didn't pitch a complete game shutout. What he did was more important. Glavine picked up his first win against his former team the Atlanta Braves. Glavine came out in the first to face Furcal and threw three straight outside balls. Finding out quickly that the ump was not going to give him the outside part of the plate, Glavine threw a meatball down the pipe that Furcal drives to center. The next pitch to Marcus Giles is another meatball and Giles got all of it for a two run homer to take the lead. Glavine begins to unravel as he walks Chipper Jones on four straight pitches. If there is such a thing as productive non outs for a pitcher, these were them. Two years ago wearing a Braves uni, at least two of those three balls thrown to Furcal are called strikes. Not now. Not in a Mets uni. Not in this Questec era of shrinking strike zones. Last year Glavine would have continued to unravel. Not now. Not this opening day. Not this time. Instead of having flashbacks of last season, collapsing on the mound into the fetal position and rocking back and forth like Leo Mizzone, Glavine quickly regrouped and adjusted. Andruw Jones grounded into a double play and Glavine struck out J.D. Drew to end the inning. From the second inning on, Glavine only gave up a pair of singles to Giles and Chipper Jones and a walk to Andrew Jones. When all was said and done, Glavine went six innings, giving up two earned runs, four hits, two walks and two strike outs.

Matsui had a stellar night. I know this has been said before but this was the first time I have gotten to see Matsui play and his swing is so similar to Ichiro's. He's already thinking first base half way through his swing. However, Matsui is not the slap hitter I envisioned. He swings through the ball with power. I'm not saying he's a bona fide slugger, but he's definitely more than some scrappy slap hitter with wheels. He also got a hair cut and seemed to tone down the orange in his hair. I don't care if he shaves the Mets symbol in his hair and dyes it purple so long as he keeps it up.

Ricky Guiterrez: 1 for 5
You'll have to excuse my memory of Guiterrez's first Met at bat as I was still on my coffee table doing the cabbage patch celebrating Matsui's home run when I noticed he was batting. I think the first pitch was a called strike. I began doing the running man while chanting, "go Kaz-Mat, go Kaz-Mat, go go go Kaz-Mat" when I noticed Guiterrez hit a single to center. That was the highlight of his night, as he proceeded to make the last outs in the second inning (ground out with Matsui on 2nd), the third inning (ground out with the bases loaded), fifth inning (lined out to SS with Matsui on 2nd) and then in the seventh my man stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded again. He looks at four straight pitches to find himself in a 3/1 count. Then looks at the fifth pitch of the at bat for a strike to fill the count 3 and 2. Then stares at a meatball down the pipe for strike three. Guiterrez never took the bat off his shoulder.

Cliff Floyd: 0 for 5 with a K.
This wasn't Cliff's best game. Floyd stepped up in the first inning and drove a 1/0 pitch deep to right field but it was caught. I thought this ball was gone but somehow gravity reclaimed it before it made its way over the fence. In the third, Floyd hits a comebacker to the pitcher and is thrown out at first. Floyd runs hard down the line and appears to be moving well. Floyd also grounded out in the fourth. Floyd's sixth inning at bat was interesting. He got caught in between getting jammed and trying to check his swing. The result was that the ball hit off the bat into the field and he was thrown out but Floyd was in such an awkward position that he was actually falling toward the dugout. I can't even do justice to how silly the whole thing looked. Floyd struck out in the eighth on three swinging strikes - each cut he looked like he was trying to make up for the last at bat but the results were the same; an out.

Mike Piazza:
Deserves as much credit as Glavine for the well pitched game. Realizing Glavine was not getting the outside call, Piazza adjusted his pitch calling and Glavine executed. Nice job.

Mike Cameron
How cool would it have been if Cameron was able to rob Giles of his HR. Oh well, I get the feeling we will be seeing a lot of nice plays. Cammy did not strike out once. He took a walk got a hit, swiped a bag and scored two runs. A great first game as a Met.

Jason Phillips
No sophomore slump for goggle boy. Two doubles and two walks.

Ty Wigginton
Not a good night for Ty at the plate. He seems late on fastballs - instead of driving them he's fouling them off.

David Weathers
Despite looking like Eugene Tackleberry from Police Academy, Weathers pitched well. Two scoreless innings. "You're ready now mister!"

Braden Looper
With a five run lead this was not a save opportunity, but it was a perfect low pressure opportunity to get Looper out there to make his debut. He let up two hits, but they were only cheap broken bat singles.
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