Friday, May 10, 2019

Mets Respond In Big Way To Callaway's Call To "Do Some Small Things"

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway on Friday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets made some history as they scored early and often to rout the Marlins, 11-2, on Friday night at Citi Field.
This was just what the Mets needed after a tough road trip after they lost five of six in Milwaukee and San Diego, and fell below .500, at 17-20 entering this three-game series with the 10-27 Marlins.

Mets Manager Mickey Callaway, in his pregame press conference, was asked what he wanted to see from his team going forward, and he said, "Obviously, the winning is the most important thing, and I want to see them continue to bring enthusiasm, continue to have persistence, effort, and we have to do some small things like we were doing early in the season.

"You know, if the third baseman's back, we have to be willing to bunt, or hit against the shift. It seems like we're getting shifted more and more lately. we've had several conversations about this over the last couple weeks to get guys in a spot mentally where they feel comfortable doing that again. There's no secret we've been struggling - (Brandon) Nimmo's been struggling, (Michael) Conforto's been struggling, (Wilson) Ramos has been struggling, so it's not always easy just to go up there, 'well, we're going to go up there and hit against the shift,' when you're already struggling to put a good swing on the ball.

"So, continue to bring enthusiasm, continue to work, and continue to have that good effort that I feel we've had all along, and there comes a point where you've just got to forget whatever's happened. If you're not injured, you're the same player you were two weeks ago when you were raking. The only thing that is different is your mindset because you've been struggling. There's a good book out there, I can't tell you the title of that book, I'm sure you guys know what it is, and it's very true - there comes a time when you've just have to say 'whatever,' and that's probably what some of us need to do. We've talked about it and that's what we expect."

The Mets heeded Callaway's words about getting back to fundamental baseball from their very first batter, when Jeff McNeil laid down a bunt for a base hit, and he slid to get around the tag of Marlins first baseman (and ex-Met and Yankee) Neil Walker to reach first.

Callaway said of McNeil opening the game with a bunt base hit, "I loved it, it started everything off in the right way. I mean, it's a hustle play, it's a heads-up play. He had to do something special just to be safe, and then you see him on his knees and he looks back to the dugout, and everybody's going crazy. That's what baseball's about. That's how you get the team going. That's how you set the tone, it was great."

J.D. Davis then laced a hit to right field, and McNeil tried going from first to third base, but was gunned down by a perfect throw from Brian Anderson.

Up next was Robinson Cano, who got his 2.500th career hit while the team was in San Diego, and he laced a single, and Davis went from first to third.

With Pete Alonso up, Davis came in on a wild pitch by Marlins starter Pablo Lopez to get the Mets on the board.

Alonso would draw a walk, followed by Michael Conforto blooping in a single to load the bases.
Wilson Ramos then hit a dribbler down the third base line to score Cano, followed by Brandon Nimmo drawing a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-0 Mets.

Amed Rosario was up next, and he launched a grand slam to right field to give the Mets a touchdown in the first inning, a commanding 7-0 lead.

The scoreboard after Rosario's grand slam. Photo by Jason Schott.

After pitcher Zack Wheeler struck out, McNeil reached once again on a hit-by-pitch, followed by Davis getting a single. Cano then singled home McNeil to make it 8-0 Mets, and he got thrown out at second when Pete Alonso grounded into a force out.

When it was over, the Mets sent 13 batters to the plate, put up eight runs on eight hits, including the Rosario grand slam; two walks, and a hit-by-pitch.

It was the first time the Mets scored eight runs in the first inning since June 16, 1989 when they scored eight runs in the top of the first against the Phillies at Veterans Stadium. That turned into a wild game in which the Phillies came back with five in the bottom of the first against Mets starter David Cone and wound up leading 11-10 late before the Mets scored three in the eighth and two in the ninth to win 15-11.

The last time the Mets scored eight runs in the first inning at home was on July 12, 1979 against the Dodgers at Shea Stadium. That was far less dramatic, as the Mets opened up a 12-0 lead in the sixth before the Dodgers scored five late runs to make it a 12-5 final.

The Mets' record for most runs in a first inning is nine, which they did at San Francisco on August 16, 1988. They went on to win 13-6, and Dwight Gooden earned his 14th win of that seaosn, in which the Mets won the National League East.

The Mets kept it going in the second when Conforto led off that frame with a home run, and then after Miami got a couple runs in the top of the third, McNeil homered to make it 10-2.

In the fourth, Conforto and Ramos got one-out singles, and Conforto came home on a single from Nimmo to put the Mets up 11-2.

Callaway said of the eight first inning runs and what this win does for his team, "First of all, you don't see that type of inning very often, that's very rare, so that's fun, just to see something you don't normally see. I think everybody took a deep breath after that, like 'okay, we can still score runs,' because we have, now, that's one inning. The thing I was most proud about is we tacked on some runs after that, you know, don't just stop because you scored eight. I was proud of the fact that we added on after, so it didn't feel like a flukey inning or whatever. So, that was the biggest part of the game in my mind, that we just continued to grind it out, have base runners and implement our approach.  

"That's one game, though, we have to keep it going. We understand that, you know, it'll be a good feeling tonight going home and we have to come back tomorrow and do the same thing or that's going to be meaningless. We understand that, and I'm not trying to rain on the parade, but it's one game, just like one loss is one loss. We have to continue to focus and come out everyday and play like we did tonight."

Zack Wheeler got the win for the Mets, as he threw seven innings, allowing two runs on nine hits and a walk, with 11 strikeouts. He is now 3-2 on the season and he lowered his ERA to 4.35.

Callaway said of Wheeler pitching with a big lead after the early run support, "That's always unbelievable for a starting pitcher to get eight runs. Sometimes, I will say, sometimes, it can make it more challenging, you have to stay locked in. You can't just go, 'okay, well, we got an eight-run lead,' next thing you know, it's 8-5. He did a great job of focusing, but it does take a little bit of the edge off, allows you to relax and just focus. If one runner gets on, okay, just execute the next pitch. It does make it a tad easier on a starting pitcher when you score eight in the first."

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