(Long Island, NY) Game 7. NLCS. Shea Stadium. Everything was lined up with a raucous sell-out crowd gearing up for a trip to the World Series. A pitcher’s duel during a low scoring tied game that included a catch for the ages by Endy Chavez in leftfield to bring back a shot that was being deposited over the wall. Then light-hitting Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hit one off Aaron Heilman that couldn’t be rescued by anyone other than Reed Richards, aka Mister Fantastic, who was not wearing a Met uniform. And last but not least, the curve ball that froze Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded and the Cards were on their way.
That was then. This is now. The New York Mets opened the 2007 baseball season in St. Louis to face the team that not only ousted them last October, but also went on to defeat the American League champion Detroit Tigers for the World championship.
Prior to the season opener, Beltran said to reporters, “They won last year, but this year is a new year.”
The Mets will have to shake off their worst spring training (as far losses) in team history. The 12-21 mark was mercifully completed with an 8-3 drubbing at the hands of the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays. But exhibition games mean squat once the first pitch is thrown when it counts.
Facing Cardinals’ top starter Chris Carpenter, the Mets went about their business with a workman like attitude and put up six runs by spraying the ball around and getting timely hits with men in scoring position. They put up a three runs in the fourth inning and made it stick. Their bullpen did bend, but did not break. They played a great
defense behind their pitchers and came away with a 6-1 win.
Tom Glavine will be the ace of the staff with Pedro Martinez out until at least August recovering from shoulder surgery. He pitched a very effective six innings, giving up only one run on six hits in earning his 291st career win. Nine more wins to get to that magic 300, which is usually an automatic ticket to Cooperstown.
I’m obviously anticipating it,” Glavine said to reporters at the end of spring training. “But I’m more concerned with what we’re doing as a team.”
The opening win was a total team effort. Carlos Delgado hit one off the wall to drive in two runs early on, and then Paul Lo Duca knocked in two more in the fourth inning. In the sixth inning, Carlos Beltran threw out David Eckstein trying to score from second base on a single and was pegged on a beautiful throw.
Jose Valentin bailed out the middle relief in the bottom of the eighth inning with a diving backhanded stop, which resulted in an inning-ending double play. Billy Wagner pitched the ninth and closed out the win.
161 games to go. But at least the Mets may have removed some of that bad taste left in their mouths by the Cardinals last October.