If finishing in second place is like kissing your sister, I'll let your deviant minds mad-lib the analogy for losing to the Braves. Again. The Mets wasted a good performance by Johan Santana in dropping a 3-1 hair-puller in Atlanta on Sunday. What'd we learn?
Johan Santana is an ace
One game doesn't really tell us that, but in just two starts this season it's easy to see why Santana is one of the best pitchers in the game. On Opening Day he was mostly dominant in shutting down the Marlins, and on Sunday he managed to shut down the Braves without anything resembling his best stuff. The Braves managed seven hits against him -- many of them solid base-knocks -- but Santana didn't hurt himself by allowing unnecessary walks, he made his three strikeouts count, and he mostly held a very good lineup in check despite featuring a fastball that was a few ticks short of top speed and a slider that didn't do much of anything.
The table-setters didn't set shit
Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo combined to go 0-for-8, totalling one fewer hit and two fewer total bases than Johan Santana, whose primary job it is to pitch. Neither Reyes nor Castillo is swinging the bat well in the early going this season, and it has still only been five games so I'm not standing on the ledge here or anything, but both have to start turning in better at-bats all around. Castillo has been taking some pitches at least, even if the results aren't there, whereas Reyes seems to have reverted to last September or pre-2006 form where he would basically swing at anything. We all want to forget about September and I'm sure Reyes is no different, but whatever he's doing right now isn't working. He was at his best last year when he was taking pitches, getting the count in his favor, working walks. He isn't doing any of that.
Credit where due, even when it backfires
I am quick to point the finger at Willie Randolph when he bungles some seemingly-obvious in-game strategery, so I will tip my cap to him for bringing in one of his best relievers -- in this case Aaron Heilman -- to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning with the Mets down by one run. Old Willie -- i.e. Saturday's version -- would have summoned Joey Mopup to face the top of the Braves' order with the game still within reach. Sadly, Heilman walked Larry Jones and allowed a pop-fly homerun to Mark Teixeira to effectively put the game out of reach. The Mets will lose in the short-term AND the long-term due to Heilman's ill-timed meltdown. Short-term, the Mets lost the game. Long-term, Willie Randolph may be more reluctant to use his best pitchers in high-leverage situations that go against his gut, his gut's ghastly track record be damned.
Carlos Delgado proves me wrong
I have high hopes but low expectations for Carlos Delgado this season. Nevertheless, Delgado looked better at the plate on Sunday than anyone else on the Mets, and his hitting .350 with a couple of walks through the first five games this season. He has just one extra-base hit -- a double -- but he has been swinging the bat pretty well.
The Mets have a day off on Monday before heading to Shea for three games against the Phillies including Tuesday's home opener. It's the last season at Shea, so let's enjoy it.