Change for the better as Mets respond with win over Pirates
A day later, signs of the Mets' Memorial Day shake-up were easy to spot.
A No. 51 jersey sat on a table near the clubhouse, the number that once belonged to Dave Hudgens, the deposed hitting coach who dissected his dismissal on sports talk radio.
A new relief pitcher, the control-challenged Vic Black, held court at his locker as he took the spot of the since-released Jose Valverde.
Whether the sudden changes ultimately will lead to sustained results is the great unanswered question. But Tuesday night, the Mets appeared to right the ship, hanging on to beat the Pirates, 4-2.
"We just haven't scored runs, we just haven't driven in the big runs," manager Terry Collins said. "So to have a game like tonight and get big hits out of some guys, I thought was important."
To be fair, the Mets were hardly a transformed bunch in their first game under new hitting coach Lamar Johnson. But the Mets offense did enough, thanks to the help of Black and Jenrry Mejia, who teamed up for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
With the game tied at 2 in the sixth inning, Juan Lagares picked up his second RBI, knocking in Ruben Tejada, who walked and advanced to third on wild pitches by reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Daniel Murphy followed with a run-scoring double to score Lagares from first.
Black helped bail out starter Jonathon Niese in the sixth, striking out Ike Davis to leave the bases loaded while keeping the Pirates off the board. In the eighth, he gave way to Mejia, who worked the last two innings to pick up the save.
"I'm ready for any situation," said Mejia, who the Mets have tried to mold into their closer. "I'm confident now."
The victory, just the second for the Mets in the last week, provided some degree of relief in the aftermath of the shake-up.
Before the game, Collins conferred with his coaches, including Johnson, Hudgens' replacement as hitting coach. Then, Collins said he met with several core members of the club "just to reassure them."
While Collins dealt with his staff, general manager Sandy Alderson reached out to fans, who have endured another round of organizational turmoil.
In the past, he has made reference to the team's payroll rising only if fans responded by coming to Citi Field. But yesterday, Alderson put the onus on the franchise.
"What we have to do is we have to put a good product on the field and we have to demonstrate that the team is worthy of support and as a result get more people out here," Alderson said. "It's not incumbent upon them it's incumbent upon us to change that situation."
Of course, that change only can come with victories.
The Mets jumped ahead 2-0 behind an RBI single by Bobby Abreu and a run-scoring double by Lagares, who earlier robbed Andrew McCutchen of an extra-base hit with a leaping catch against the wall.
Niese allowed two runs in 51/3 innings. After blanking the Pirates for five innings, Niese walked the bases loaded in the sixth, then allowed a stinging two-run single to Starling Marte.
With that, Collins fetched Niese, who watched Black escape a bases-loaded jam by striking out Davis, who was pinch hitting.
"Good thing Vic got out of it for me," Niese said of Black, who earned the win in his first appearance of the season.