Mets beat Cardinals, take 3 out of 4 in series
For a second straight game, Citi Field looked as if it had hosted an impromptu ticker-tape parade. Wind sent debris swirling around the diamond. Between innings, workers scurried to collect the detritus.
There have been better conditions for a baseball game. But these Mets seem less worried about aesthetics and more concerned about results. Which is why after Thursday's 4-1 victory over the Cardinals, they had reason to be pleased.
"We've pitched very well, we've played very, very well defensively," manager Terry Collins said. "You've got to keep yourself in games."
Once again, Collins watched his jerry-rigged roster do just that.
Starter-turned-reliever Daisuke Matsuzaka nailed down the save in his first big-league opportunity, successfully stepping in for the recently overtaxed Kyle Farnsworth. Bartolo Colon (2-3, 4.50) allowed one run in seven innings in his best start as a member of the Mets, allowing a season low in hits (four) and racking up a season high in strikeouts (eight).
Meanwhile, Chris Young kick-started the offense with a mammoth tying solo homer in the fifth, Daniel Murphy had a pair of RBIs and the slumping Curtis Granderson came off the bench in the seventh to knock in an insurance run.
Eric Young Jr. scored twice. He used his speed to force a two-base throwing error by Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. Then he tripled to the gap in right-center before scoring on Murphy's hit.
For an offense that has looked mostly stagnant, particularly at home, it was just enough.
The Mets took three of four games from the Cardinals and won their fourth in five games overall. They are 4-3 on a homestand that continues Friday night when the Marlins begin a three-game series. "Just win series," Murphy said. "I don't really care what it looks like."
From an underachieving lineup to a volatile bullpen, the Mets' imperfections have been exposed in the opening weeks of the season. Yet at 12-10, they keep finding a way to play winning baseball.
"We've proven that even when we're not hitting on all cylinders, we can still give ourselves a chance to win games and win series," Murphy said. "That's exciting."
Mets pitchers have gone five straight games without allowing a homer. They've posted a 1.44 ERA in that span, helping to compensate for a lineup that has stumbled out of the gate.
But there's evidence that the Mets' luck could turn at the plate.
According to FanGraphs.com, at the start of play Thursday, the Mets ranked 10th in baseball with a line-drive rate of 21.2 percent. But their .280 batting average on balls in play ranked only 25th. In essence, despite hitting the ball hard, they hadn't been rewarded with hits.
Their propensity for striking out hasn't helped either. Nevertheless, the Mets have sensed improvement in their approach at the plate.
"While we're not pounding out a whole bunch of hits," Murphy said, "I think we're really starting to grind out some at-bats as a club."
Their hope is that those at-bats begin to translate into hits, as they did for Chris Young, who hammered Lynn's 2-and-2 pitch against the wind into the upper deck in leftfield. It was a fitting reward for Young, who earlier in the series was robbed of his first homer as a Met.
"Our approaches are getting better, our at-bats are getting better," he said. "We're having consistent at-bats, putting pressure on the pitcher."