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Mets-Marlins Rewind

By Jason Levy

The New York Mets finished their first road trip of 2009 on a down note, losing two of three to the Florida Marlins, who have come out of the gate playing great baseball. What did we learn in Miami?

1. The Marlins are legit. If they get quality starts from Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad, and get timely hits from Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu, they are going to give teams fits, and come away with plenty of victories. The Mets batters might start having nightmares about Johnson, who mowed them down and out dueled Johan Santana, routinely throwing first-pitch strikes and hitting in the high nineties on the radar gun. Johnson entered the game 4-0 lifetime against the Mets, with a 1.76 ERA. As long as he is a Marlin (you need to say that about every Marlin) he could be trouble for the Mets.

2. Gary Sheffield might actually be a bench player with the Mets, and he might actually be OK with that. Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy have both been hitting the ball to start the season, and except for Murphy’s costly error on Sunday, have been playing well in the field (and both should be better than the 40-year-old Sheffield anyway). Church is leading the Mets with a .478 average and six doubles, sending a message to Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel that he is not ready to have his role reduced. The Mets said all spring they want to let Murphy play, so this could turn into an interesting dilemma for Manuel. But it’s better to have too many players than too few.

3. Santana looks like he hasn’t missed a beat from last year. Sunday was his first loss since June 28, 2008, but he can’t be blamed for the defeat, allowing only three hits and striking out 13 in a classic pitchers duel. Santana has usually been a slow starter, posting a 13-9 in March and April, and steadily improving as the season progresses. If he continues to pitch like this, he is going to win many more games than he loses.

4. You can blame Murphy for the loss with his drop in the second inning that led to both Marlins runs, but the bigger culprit is the Mets inability to hit with runners in scoring position. In the Mets Friday night loss, they went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 14 men on base. But in the Mets Saturday win, they went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. And on Sunday, they went 1-5 with runners in scoring position, with the one hit coming in the ninth inning. This has been a problem that has plagued the Mets (especially, ESPECIALLY in September) in recent years and they must solve this problem if 2009 will be any different from 2008 or 2007.

5. And finally, cheer up Mets fans. Sure losing two of three to the Marlins sucks, especially when Santana pitches a gem like that, but you know what happens on Monday. Citi Field will be christened tomorrow and all the legends will be on hand for the event. Citi will open the way Shea closed, with Tom Seaver throwing to Mike Piazza. If the Mets players aren’t hyped up by that, the fans in attendance will push them there. It’s going to be a night to remember for all Mets fans.

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