|Fans hunkered under umbrellas as Justin Turner — now the Mets' third baseman — smacked a double in the sixth. (NYTimes.com)|
Jon Niese proved effective on the mound and Justin Turner came through with his bat again, giving New York a 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals.
The Good Stuff:
- In his best outing of the year, Niese shut down the Washington bats through 7 innings, limiting the opposition to 6 hits and walking just one, while striking out 7. He got himself into a jam in the 7th, loading the bases but buckled down to get Roger Bernadina to ground out to first to end the National threat.
- We may be witnessing the Rise of Justin Turner. The young infielder (playing third base tonight) came up big when it mattered most: with 2 on and 2 out, Justin drove a double over Bernadina's head in center, bringing home both runners. He's now on a 4-game RBI streak (9 total) dating back to Saturday's game in Houston.
- Also coming up big at the plate was Jose Reyes, who went 3-4 and scored 2 runs. The league leader in hits, he's on pace for 228. Reyes' presence cannot be overstated: Gary Cohen & company on SNY were talking about the irony that in this injury-filled season, Jose and Carlos Beltran are the only two who seem to be healthy; indeed, should Jose have suffered the same fate as many of his comrades, New York's record may be closer to the 5-13 start instead of 20-22.
- The other Met offense came from Jason Bay (sac fly in the 1st) and Scott Hariston (2-3 with a run).
- Also worth note: Ruben Tejada made his season debut, going 1-3 and coming up with a couple nice plays at second base.
- After Niese's departure, Jason Isringhausen and Fransisco Rodriguez allowed a couple hits, but ultimately shut the door on Washington's night, with K-Rod picking up his 13th straight save.
- Blame it on the rain if you want, but the Mets' offense hit better than its 3 runs indicate. New York went 1-12 at the plate with RISP and left 11 men on base.
- The biggest culprits of ineptitude were the 4-5-6 hitters: despite Bay's RBI, he, Daniel Murphy, and Ronny Paulino combined to go 0-9 with 6 Ks.
If you told me a month and a half ago the Mets' lineup in mid-May would be Reyes-Turner-Beltran-Bay-Murphy-Paulino-Hariston-Tejada-pitcher, I would've slapped you. If you told me we would pick up our first shutout victory of the year with that lineup, I would still probably slap you, but I'd feel better would probably sing this afterwards. Even without 55% of the projected Opening Day lineup, the Mets refuse to go away quietly. Granted it was just against the Nationals, but we've done far worse against those guys (last July 3, anyone?). Very satisfying win, plus they can all go Slip-'n'-Sliding afterwards in all that rainwater.
The Amazin's get another tuneup against the Nats tomorrow afternoon before taking the subway to the Bronx to face those damned Yankees. But with the Bombers in a slump and controversy stemming from the Jorge Posada incident, the Mets might be able to catch them with their pants down, provided they take the momentum they've acquired over the last couple weeks with them to the House That Steinbrenner Built Because Ruth's House Wasn't Expensive Enough. A win tomorrow wouldn't hurt.
P.S. In a related story, Angel Pagan has begun his rehab assignment in Class A St. Lucie. Hope to see him back in Queens soon.