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Mets-Reds Rewind

By Jason Levy

The New York Mets first series of the season is, as Howie Rose would say, in the books. What can the Mets take away from their first three games of 2009 against the Cincinnati Reds? Here are five things:

1. The bullpen, while not perfect, is much improved. Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Frankie Rodriguez pitched three and a third scoreless innings in the season opener, giving Johan Santana his first win of the year. And two nights later when they didn’t have their best stuff (especially Rodriguez) managed to get out of jams to keep the lead intact. And Thursday afternoon saw the bullpen keep the Reds off the board (all eight runs were credited to Oliver Perez), with Brian Stokes, one of two bullpen holdovers, pitching two shutout innings. Yes, there will be leads lost and runs squandered by the bullpen (it happens to everyone) but Mets fans can breathe easier in the late innings knowing Aaron Heilman and Luis Ayala won’t be jogging out of the bullpen in 2009.

2. Ollie Perez is exactly the same as he used to be, dominant one inning and defeated the next. He might be the only pitcher in the majors who’s psyche could unravel pitch-by-pitch. Perez had seven strikeouts against the Reds, but also surrendered five walks and five hits in four and a third innings. If he steps onto the mound and can’t find the plate, the rest of the team knows they are in for a long day. He can learn a lot from Mike Pelfrey, who gave up four runs in the first inning on Wednesday night, but rebounded to keep the Reds off the scoreboard the following four innings en route to a victory. Every pitcher is going to have a bad inning every now and then, but the good ones learn how to recover.

3. Carlos Delgado still remembers how to swing the bat. He carried the Mets on his back for much of the second half in 2008, garnering MVP talk just weeks after everyone thought he was washed up. He had six runs batted in against Cincy, leading the way for the Mets, two of which came on his tape-measure bomb in game two. He’s arguably the most important hitter in the middle of the Mets lineup, providing much needed protection for David Wright and Carlos Beltran. The Mets offense will only go as far as Delgado takes them.

4. Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy aren’t going to let Gary Sheffield take one of their spots without a fight. Church hit three doubles against the Reds and is tied with Delgado to lead the Mets with five hits. Murphy was in the middle of every rally, tied with Wright for the team lead in runs scored (four) and made a couple of big plays in the opener to lead the Mets to victory. Sheffield will see more time as he gets into outfield shape and the Mets face some lefties, but neither Murphy or Church will make Jerry Manuel’s decision as to who sits any easier.

5. Its still a long way to October, and a lot can happen. We have 159 games left, and many, many more heart-wrenching moments ahead. Any loss can be frustrating, but the Mets loss on Thursday was nothing compared to the Angels and baseball’s loss late Wednesday night. Nick Adenhart barely got a chance to have a major league career. He pitched six scoreless innings earlier in the night, and he never got the chance for an encore. The loss suffered by his family, friends, and teammates is one that everyone will feel. Keep things in perspective Mets fans.

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