When word came out Wednesday that Mark Vientos was being called up from Syracuse, I visited the comment sections of various websites to allow the anonymous monikers who have called for this transaction (or something similar) for weeks to take their bow. With the everyday inclusion of Triple-A results and the latest accolades of the prized prospects that weren’t traded last summer, I’ve read about the 23-year old hitter since Port St. Lucie. The one without a proper defensive position with eye-popping numbers against pitchers not good enough for the big leagues. The initial part of the last sentence was why I didn’t foresee him in a major league uniform anytime soon.
It’s not too long ago that this loyal fan base, me included, were vocally petitioning for Luis Guillorme to win a Gold Glove as a utility player. His defense is a standard, from the barehanded bat grabs to amazing over-the-shoulder catches. Guillorme's .273 average last year was his best and without a true backup at shortstop for Francisco Lindor, I figured his bench spot was untouchable. But then the team fell three games under Mt. .500 for the first time with Buck Showalter as head coach. Who knew that’s what it took to toss out the team’s superior defense for a power bat?
With The Kingsmen’s classic ‘Louie Louie’ no longer amongst active roster walk-up music, my thoughts turned to what this means for Tommy Pham and Eduardo Escobar, versatile players now more vital than ever as backups at multiple positions. My fear with Vientos’ call up was having multiple players for the one DH position despite Daniel Vogelbach and his .379 OPS, good enough for second-best on the team, missing at-bats to ensure a rookie gets his.
Vientos started Wednesday at third base, ensuring that Brett Baty would miss out on a few at-bats. The left-handed 23-year old’s ability at third was what pushed Vientos from the hot corner in search of someplace else in the field to wait until his turn at bat. However, he hadn’t been replaced for a defensive substitution in the 7th inning against Tampa and the rest is the start of Mets lore.
If you were listening to Gary Cohen’s call on SNY, not watching the screen, you could easily have been fooled into thinking Vientos hit a harmless out. But just like Showalter and other stubborn Mets fans like myself have adjusted, Cohen changed his tone of voice as Tampa’s Jose Siri kept retreating to the wall before watching the hopes and dreams of Mets fans for a successful season revert from defunct to possible.
His two-run homer tied the game, but the same bullpen that’s kept this season alive couldn’t hold it close. In fact, they would allow at least one run in the final four frames. But with two outs in the ninth, Francisco Alvarez hit a ball about as far as he tossed his bat skyward to tie the game. Then an inning later, Pete Alonso hit a ball that still hasn’t landed yet to win it.
It’s an emotional victory that allows one to forget Lindor attempting to do something similar to Alonso in the previous at-bat, swinging out of his shoes for another strikeout during his .225 AVG/.308 OBP start to 2023. Taking two of three from the team with the best record in the league covers up Alonso’s .234 AVG/.333 OBP to start to the season; stats that include his 4th inning homer in Thursday's 3-2 win. The flashes of power between the two has seemingly blinded the fan base, who instead cry loudly for changes at the bottom of the order while looking past the heart of the problem.
The heart of this franchise has always been pitching, so Kodai Senga’s six superior innings against one of the best offensive teams in the league shouldn’t be scoffed at. The biggest change from earlier starts was his ability to throw the Ghost fork ball for a strike, a pitch floating chest high before diving for the dirt that makes Senga’s 96 MHP fastball appear that much faster and sets up everything else. This was my biggest takeaway from this game, regardless of the outcome. If Senga and Justin Verlander can provide some stability, there’s enough time to right the ship.
Like any ship on a long journey, it’s going to keep sailing and Tylor Megill was asked to pass momentum along. He responded with six strong innings, allowing just two runs on four hits. More importantly, he only walked one. That brings Megill’s season total to 23, four less free passes than he threw in roughly double the innings as a rookie two years ago. A different blast from the past is Friday’s starting pitcher - Carlos Carrasco.
In what feels like ages ago, Carrasco was a salary dump by Cleveland as part of the trade for Lindor. The overall acquisition is still loudly questioned and frequently attributed to current GM Billy Eppler, despite it being done long before he took over. But for a fan base that’s wagged the dog and received Baty and Vientos for their whimpering, anything is possible and that’s the truth.
Upcoming Series: Cleveland Guardians at New York Mets
Friday, May 19 - 7:10 pm
Carlos Carrasco (0-2, 8.56 ERA) vs. Cal Quantrill (2-2, 3.97 ERA)
Saturday, May 20 - 4:10 pm
Max Scherzer (3-2, 4.88 ERA) vs. Tanner Bibee (1-1, 3.22 ERA)
Sunday, May 21 - 7:10 pm
Justin Verlander (1-2, 4.76 ERA) vs Justin Bieber (3-2, 3.20 ERA)
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