The New York Mets started the 2013 season with a bang: 19 runs over the first two games to be exact. Jonathon Niese held the San Diego Padres to two runs over 6 2/3 innings on Opening Day and the Mets lineup drove in runners in scoring position virtually every chance they had.
But the third and fourth games exposed the Mets’ anemic offense and shaky bullpen, dropping the team’s record to 2-2. As the team’s new ace, Niese took the mound on April 6 against the Miami Marlins in an effort to keep the team above a .500 record. Niese contained the Marlins to two runs over six innings but did not get the win. However, the Mets defeated Miami 7-3.
Manager Terry Collins has altered the lineup over the first few games of the season. He experimented with right fielder Mike Baxter at leadoff on April 6 after previously trying centerfielder Colin Cowgill and utility man Jordany Valdespin in past games. Baxter does not have much speed or power, but he is arguably the most patient hitter in the lineup. He has a career .358 on-base percentage despite just a .254 average.
Baxter drew a walk in the first and seventh innings, inducing the pitcher to expose his full arsenal. He also singled in the third inning. Since Baxter is not a free swinger he could be the most consistent candidate to hit in the leadoff position.
The Mets are able to get runners in scoring position but struggle mightily to bring them to home plate. Collins is likely to shuffle the lineup like a deck of cards all season if there continues to be a lack of chemistry. The hits and walks have no meaning if they do not turn into runs. Murphy did deliver an RBI triple but the majority of his at-bats were cause for concern
Daniel Murphy had a flat game, striking out on three pitches in the first inning, weakly grounding out into a double play in the third inning and hitting into another lazy groundout in the sixth inning.
Ruben Tejada has already committed four errors this season and has largely failed to deliver clutch hitting. The lineup lacks pop and talent, so if players such as Murphy and Tejada simultaneously go cold the offense will suffer. With Tejada faltering both in the field and the plate, he is growing to be deadweight in the lineup. If the Mets become easy outs then the starting pitchers of opposing teams will go deeper into games.
Catcher John Buck, however, is having a strong start to the season. He delivered four RBIs against the Marlins on April 6 and has been critical to the offense in all five of the games he has played this year. But Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a fast start last season then quickly lost steam. The Mets need every hitter to contribute for its offense to be successful.
David Wright and Ike Davis had a couple of hits and Colin Cowgill delivered his second home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Mets have been able to break through against bullpens but need to add more insurance runs earlier in the game against starting pitchers.
The starting pitching has given the Mets a chance to win each time, and if the young arms on the mound can continue to hold off opposing teams the onus will be on the Mets lineup to tally wins.