Young Mets give fans an inkling of exciting days to come
Anthony RieberAnthony Rieber
Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998
Saturday's Matt Harvey-Max Scherzer showdown sure was fun. It wasn't just the fans who were into it. "Everybody was excited," said Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares, who had the key at-bat of the game from the home team's perspective.
Everybody was excited because Harvey was facing the likely AL Cy Young Award winner in Scherzer, who improved to 19-1 with six shutout innings in Detroit's 3-0 victory at Citi Field.
Everybody was excited because the Mets had their future on display in Harvey. The phenom didn't disappoint, allowing two runs on an astounding 13 hits in 62/3 innings.
This wasn't the dominating Harvey. It was the gutty Harvey. And the gutty Harvey was impressive, just for different reasons.
If the producers of the upcoming "Batman / Superman" movie want to quell the uprising over their choice of Ben Affleck as Batman, they should think about casting Harvey as Superman. He's the Mets' Superman, anyway.
Back to Lagares and the key at-bat of the game. The rookie surely was excited in the sixth inning when he came to bat with the bases loaded, one out and the Mets trailing 2-0.
With David Wright still out with a hamstring strain, the Mets had to use Wilmer Flores and Lagares as their 5-6 hitters against strikeout machine Scherzer.
Just as Harvey shows the Mets what they can be, the lack of a few big thumpers in the middle of the order shows the Mets what they need. It's not a new thought -- the Mets need better hitters to match their young pitching before we can credit them with turning a corner -- but Saturday's sixth inning brought the issue to light.
Daniel Murphy singled to lead off the inning and moved to third one out later on Ike Davis' booming double to right-center. Then Scherzer walked Flores on four pitches.
Lagares, who has impressed the Mets with an ability to improve offensively while facing major-league pitching for the first time, let one strike go by before fanning later in the at-bat on an up-and-in, 96-mph heater.
No shame there. Scherzer did strike out 11.
But manager Terry Collins confirmed he was talking about Lagares when he later said, "We like our approach a lot with these young guys, what they're trying to do, work the count. But as we've seen in the last couple nights, they're taking strikes. Swinging at balls. That's not the approach you want. Especially when you've got guys in scoring position. If you get a strike, you've got to put a swing on it. Against guys like Max Scherzer, you're not going to get many good pitches to hit, and when you get a good one, you better swing at it."
Collins anticipated that hitting coach Dave Hudgens will go over the at-bat with Lagares Sunday morning. The Mets have been impressed with Lagares' work ethic before games; it's a prime reason why the 24-year-old with the superb defensive skills could be a piece in 2014 and beyond -- if the Mets acquire or develop enough talent to push him down in the batting order.
Travis d'Arnaud is supposed to be a piece, too. But he got Saturday off as John Buck caught Harvey. After Lagares struck out, Buck popped the first pitch to short to end the inning and was booed loudly.
It's mighty hard to read the minds of 35,636 people, but maybe some of them were wondering what d'Arnaud could have done in that spot, even if he has started his big-league career with one hit in 15 at-bats.
Harvey. Lagares. D'Arnaud. Zack Wheeler. The Mets have some young players who get their fans excited. With the right moves this offseason, it's not hard to imagine more exciting games like Saturday -- and maybe even the Mets winning some of them.