The Mets' 6-1 victory over the Cubs Monday night was highly anticipated due to the (largely successful) debut of top prospect Ike Davis, but ultimately the pitching performance by Jon Niese may have been more notable. It wasn't a dominant performance by any means; he gave up eight hits, three walks, and allowed his pitch count to elevate quickly over five innings and change, after all. But what he did might have been almost as encouraging. He proved he can get hitters out even when things aren't necessarily going his way.
His ball had some great movement tonight. The fastball was diving, the cutter really helped neutralize a righty-heavy lineup, and he dropped a couple beautiful curves. As I said, things weren't perfect, and Niese was constantly working out of jams. Pitchers who put that many runners on-base are usually working on borrowed time, but I was still plenty encouraged. One of Niese’s three walks was intentional, and the other two came later in the game, when Niese was clearly pretty gassed. And while Niese did allow those eight hits, only one ball was hit hard in the air, a double to Alfonso Soriano. And only one of those baserunners came around to score, an unearned run that came in after Fernando Nieve relieved Niese. Niese’s secret is hardly revolutionary: ground balls and strikeouts. More than half the balls Cub players hit into the field of play were on the ground, and Niese recorded seven strikeouts. When you have those two skills, you’re going to strand some baserunners.
There were other positives. Davis made his major league debut and singled in his first at-bat. Later on, he singled home Jason Bay, who reached base on a long double, for his first RBI. Whether or not I think he’s ready – I’d rather see Ike get some more seasoning at Triple-A first -- it’s nice to see an organizational jewel shine. And Angel Pagan continued his strong hitting by smacking a two-run homerun that gave the Mets the lead for good in the seventh.
And finally there was Jenrry Mejia. First, it was nice to see Jerry Manuel let him stay in there for more than just one inning, the second straight occasion he’s been so inclined this season. You’d think if you had a kid whose past (and hopefully future) resided in the rotation would be allowed to work through two innings, but that hadn’t been the case before Saturday’s appearance. In any event, Mejia pitched very well, retiring all six batters he faced, four on ground outs, and the other two via strikeouts. Thus far, Mejia hasn’t been a big strikeout pitcher, but he has done a very good job of keeping the ball on the ground, with a rate well over 60%.
So a nice game from Niese, Davis, and Mejia. I don’t think two members of that trio belong in the big leagues right now, but, like it or not, they’re here now. And despite that it was nice, even if only for a night, to witness a vision of how the future is supposed to look.
Count me as one incredibly psyched
That the Met roster has been Ike’d
Mets also got a strong start from Niese
Worked out of jams, no masterpiece
And Pagan’s two-run shot I like
But who cares? Let’s talk some more of Ike
Mets got two hits, an RBI from Davis
Will this rookie be enough to save us?
Big winners: Angel Pagan +29.8%, Jonathon Niese +27.4%
Big losers: Rod Barajas -14.8%, Fernando Nieve -0.5%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Angel Pagan's two-run homerun +29.5%
Teh sux0rest play: Marlon Byrd RBI single -15.6%
Total pitcher WPA: +28.5%
Total batter WPA: +21.5%
GWRBI!: Angel Pagan
Nice job by Gina; her effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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