The New York Mets played a pair of exhibition games against the New York Yankees over the weekend as both teams ramp up for Opening Day this week. While I would’ve loved to see the Mets at least play one more exhibition game prior to Friday, we’ll settle for two and send our undivided attention to Friday’s afternoon opener against the Atlanta Braves. But first I wanted to point out a few takeaways from each game this weekend that I thought needed attention.
Saturday’s Game: Yankees 9 – Mets 3
– Yoenis Cespedes Is Back: While La Potencia went 0-4, it was a moment all Mets fans have been waiting for. We have been dreaming of the day we would see Cespedes digging back into the batter’s box in a Mets jersey and on July 18, 2020 it all came to frutition. While many criticized him for letting up a bit while running to first base in the first inning, at the end of the day it’s an exhibition game. The last thing we need is Cespedes hurting himself in a meaningless game after coming off two serious leg injuries. When healthy Cespedes lengthens this lineup and provides the Mets with one of the deepest lineups in baseball.
Defense Wins Championships: Defense is something the Mets struggled mightly with during the 2020 season, and while I won’t give them too much slack after not playing a complete baseball game in over four months, it’s something they can not afford to let bite them in the butt this season. The Mets had four errors last night as a team, with two of them being committed by third baseman Max Moroff. In an abbreviated season you can not afford to give your opponent extra outs with mistakes in the field, and I believe this is an area that has manager Luis Rojas’ attention after last night.
Polar Pete Is In Midseason Form: First Baseman Pete Alonso already looked ready to go both physically and mentally for reguar season games on Saturday night. Alonso picked up two hits including an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth off Yankees reliever Zack Britton. He also made an incredible play in the 8th inning on a errant pickoff attempt from reliever Dellin Betances. While Thairo Estrada got greedy and attempted to take third base in addition to second base, Alonso made a beautiful one-hop throw from the opposite foul line to nab Estrada in his tracks on his way to third. Alonso is easily one of the most exciting young players in baseball and he proved on Saturday night in a meaningless game why.
Sunday’s Game: Yankees 6 – Mets 0
Offense Looked Offensive: While it’s hard to get too high or too low on any given result over these past two games, the offense was nowhere to be found tonight, as they were only able to muster three hits against Yankees pitching. It was a bit disappointing as the Yankees put on their own version of a home run derby against Mets pitching tonight. With as deep as this lineup is, it’s very tough to envision many games like tonight’s during the regular season, but we’ll just chalk this game as one to forget. On a positive note it was nice to see Amed Rosario go 2 for 3 tonight as I am excited to see him continue to build off his great stretch at the plate over the second half of last season.
Seth Lugo Is a Bad Man: It was great seeing Seth Lugo back on the mound tonight with his dominant stuff that we have grown accustomed to. I believe he seems to get a bit overlooked sometimes in the shuffle of Familia, Diaz, and Betances. There is no doubt in my mind he is the most effective reliever in the Mets bullpen, and I get giddy watching him pitch, as the way he puts hitters away always looks like a work of art. Lugo pitched two scoreless frames while also showing off that beautiful curveball he poesseses in his arsenal. I firmly believe the 30-year old righty will be the first in line for saves if Edwin Diaz struggles early in the season.
Hunter Strickland Impresses: Lastly, I firmly believe Hunter Strickland may have won himself a spot on the Mets Opening Day roster with his performance tonight. With questions now surrounding Robert Gsellman’s avaliability for Opening Day, the 31-year old right-hander may be the biggest beneficiary. Strickland came on in relief of starter Corey Oswalt and pitched a clean inning while striking out two. His stuff looked great tonight with his fastball reaching 96 MPH. Strickland was released by the Washington Nationals back in March, with the Mets signing him in late June when the transaction period opened back up. Also wouldn’t it be something to watch Strickland and Bryce Harper square off again at some point this season. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Reference the video below.