There’s only so much to be gleaned from the first three games of a baseball season. Every year there are players who have looked like Hall of Famers in April, only to find themselves in the minors by July. Similarly, there’s a tendency to label a veteran’s career as going downhill before Memorial Day, only to revel in his incredible consistency by Labor Day. In other words, as tempting as it is to use the first week as a launching pad for predictions of what we’re about to see this season, let’s instead review some of the “firsts” that we just saw this past week.
Robinson Cano hit the first 2019 Mets home run (driving in the first run) in the first inning of the first game, in his first Mets at-bat no less. To put this into context, Cano was the tenth Mets player to do this, the sixth non-rookie Mets player to do it, and only the third player to do it on opening day (Kaz Matsui and Jose Vizcaino were the other two). As enjoyable as this shot was, and as important as Cano’s clutch 8th-inning RBI insurance run was, it was Cano’s defense that stood out as the biggest game-saver, as he threw a runner out at home in the third inning to finish off the Mets first double-play of 2019, in style. It’s possible that this was the first sign of exciting things to come, and also possible that this was Cano’s best game in Mets pinstripes. Either way, Cano’s firsts went a long way in providing the Mets with their first win.
Jacob deGrom was the first Mets Cy Young Award winner to start for the Mets on the following Opening Day since Dwight Gooden in 1986. By the end of the game, he had become the first player in MLB history with 30 straight starts allowing three runs or fewer. This is not one of those “most strikeouts by a lefty on Tuesday afternoons west of the Mississippi” stats; this one actually means a great deal. DeGrom’s consistent excellence shows that he doesn’t just have a great arm, but that he knows how to pitch even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Opening Day was a great example of this, as deGrom seemed to get out of jams about as easily as he got into them. DeGrom pitched with the lead for his entire outing, which he did in just two of his 32 starts last season. He didn’t allow a run in his first game this year, something that he pulled off in eight starts last season. The Mets went 4-4 in those games. It took until late April, the sixth start of his amazing 2018 season that the Mets won a game in which deGrom didn’t give up a run. Last week, they already won their first of 2019. It’s probably going to be harder and harder to find new “firsts” for deGrom. I’m sure Mets fans are okay with that.
On Opening Day, rookie first baseman, Pete Alonso, got his first hit (a single) in his first game. He got his first extra-base hit (a double) and first RBI, in the second game. By the time the three-game series was over, Alonso was batting .500, with 3 RBI’s and a 1.321 OPS, all without hitting his first major league home run. It’s tempting to use Alonso’s first series to let the imagination run wild about what he could be. And at the same time, the fact that it requires effort to prevent myself from getting too excited is exciting in itself. A few years ago, some baseball statisticians declared the second spot in the lineup to be reserved for the team’s best hitter. I don’t know if Mickey Callaway subscribes to this idea or not, but the fact that Alonso batted second for the Mets does mean that the team is asking a lot from the guy. I don’t think they could have asked for much more than what they got from him in the opening series.
Some other fun firsts from this past week: Edwin Diaz got his first (and also his second save), Jeff McNeil hit the team’s first triple, and Wilson Ramos became the first Mets player to share a nickname with a city of the team’s former Triple-A affiliate (Buffalo). That is unless you count “Tidewater” Tim Bogar, which you shouldn’t, because nobody ever called him that.
The Mets won their first series this year, just like they did last year. They won the first two games and lost the third, just like they did last year. As you may remember, they had an incredible April last year, just before it all fell apart. We have no real idea what the Mets 2019 season will look like when all is said and done. As first impressions go, however, the 2019 Mets were pretty impressive. Mets fans are hoping that won’t be the last time this year that word is used to describe them.