The Yankees lost. The Mets won. But aside from the result, there was plenty to take away from the first games of the 2015 season.
THE BRETT GARDNER POWER SURGE CONTINUES
Brett Gardner hit a career-high 17 home runs in 2014 after hitting a total of 23 home runs in his previous six seasons. Gardner homered off Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison on Monday to keep the power show rolling.
CHRIS MARTIN WILL FIX YOU
Yes, the Yankees have a reliever named Chris Martin, leading to countless Coldplay jokes on social media (the British rock band is famously fronted by a different fellow named Chris Martin). Jokes aside, the Yankees’ Martin performed like a rock star on Opening Day by striking out three in a perfect inning of work. He threw 17 pitches, 10 for strikes.
HOME STADIUM FANS WILL FORG1V3 A-ROD
Alex Rodriguez is back in pinstripes following a full season off as he served a PED-related suspension. There were a few boos in the crowd, but the Yankee Stadium stands mostly showered Rodriguez with cheers. That reception is unlikely to follow him to other ballparks.
ALEX RODRIGUEZ CAN STILL HIT (AND WALK)
Okay, so the fans love A-Rod again. But that reception will turn around in a heartbeat if the designated hitter doesn’t hit. Rodriguez looked very good on Monday, going 1-for-2 with a walk and showing his typical keen awareness of the strike zone. Despite a year off, he looked like one of the Yankees’ more polished hitters.
DEREK JETER IS GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
The specter of the retired ex-Yankees captain was everywhere. Fans still wore the iconic No. 2 jersey (of course), the media questioned why Jeter didn’t throw out the first pitch on Monday (Joe Torre did the honors) and John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman told Jeter stories during the Yankees broadcast. After one tale, Sterling remarked that the events occurred 20 years ago. “It was yesterday,” Waldman shot back.
MASAHIRO TANAKA IS STILL MUST-SEE TV
All the damage against Tanaka occurred during an odd top of the third inning on Monday. Tanaka gave up three hits and a walk during the inning, throwing 25 pitches, only 11 for strikes. In his other three innings, he allowed a walk and a single, struck out six and tossed 57 pitches, 39 for strikes.
VELOCITY IN NEW YORK CITY
Much was made of Masahiro Tanaka’s supposedly diminished velocity on Monday. The pitcher even admitted that his velocity was down this spring as he intentionally sought to pitch in a way that produced less strain on his right elbow with a slight tear of the UCL. Tanaka hit 93 mph twice on Monday and mostly worked in the 89-91 mph range, according to the play-by-play on MLB.com. That’s not much different from his 2014 debut when he hit 94 mph three times and mostly used a fastball that averaged 91.8 mph, according to Fangraphs.com.
BARTOLO COLON WAS NOT A BAD CHOICE FOR OPENING DAY
When Bartolo Colon was announced as the Mets’ Opening Day starter, Twitter and radio talk show hosts and callers went ballistic that Matt Harvey or 2014 NL Rookie of the Year Jacob de Grom wasn’t given the nod. Instead the honor “fell” to Colon, a pitcher who had amassed more than 200 wins, three All-Star appearances and an AL Cy Young award and had just posted an above-average season (202.1 innings, 4.09 ERA) in 2014. Colon, of course, was terrific in striking out eight and allowing three hits, one walk and one run (earned) in six innings.
THE METS BULLPEN WAS LIGHTS OUT
Few disagree that the Mets have a talented rotation and even an able lineup. The bullpen, however, that’s another story. Until the final days of spring training, the Mets didn’t even have a legitimate contender for a lefthanded relief role. Oh, and closer Jenrry Mejia is having elbow problems. But for one day, at least, the pen was outstanding. Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins and Buddy Carlyle combined for three perfect innings of relief, striking out two.
FIRST PLACE AT FIRST BASE
For the first time, Lucas Duda entered a season as the sole Mets first baseman. Following his breakout 2014 season, Duda went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the opener. With the Mets down by a run in the bottom of the sixth, Duda lined a two-out single to right to score Curtis Granderson and David Wright.
THE NEW LINEUP WORKED
Whether it was worked out in pen by Terry Collins or spit out of Sandy Alderson’s computer, the Mets’ rejiggered lineup produced on Opening Day. The Mets’ best hitters were stacked at the top of the order, giving them more plate appearances. The first three hitters, Curtis Granderson, David Wright and Lucas Duda, combined to go 2-for-11 with two runs scored, two RBIs and two walks. Nationals pitchers were only able to strike out a member of the trio once. The rest of the lineup was 3-for-23 with one run, one RBI, one walk and eight strikeouts.
Picking up where he left off in 2014, catcher Travis d’Arnaud was 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI on Opening Day. He also guided Mets pitchers to a stellar performance against one of the league’s best teams.