Mejia, defense, and the pen work for the Mets in shutout over the Cardinals

Rich Mancuso

If the New York Mets can get the good pitching, timely hit, defense and bullpen support as they did Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals they can be tough to beat. Jenry Mejia with command on the fastball, cutter and slider could not be touched and paved the way for the Mets 2-0 opening series win over the National league champions Monday night at Citi Field.

On this night, Mejia was sharp. Ruben Tejada, got on base with a walk, but two all-star plays at short bypassed his continued struggles at the plate. On a ball hit by the Cardinals’ John Jay up the middle in the fifth inning, Tejada dived and flipped the ball to Daniel Murphy at second.

It was a double-play that helped Mejia who was in one of his few jams of the evening. Mets manager Terry Collins said it was “A tremendous double Play.” And it was one of many good things that went right for the Mets who took the first of a four-game series. Tejada also made a diving stop in the fourth inning.

“The biggest thing from last year is separate the offense from the defense,” said Tejada, who struggled last season and made his share of errors at short. The Mets hope Tejada can stay consistent and at the same time get the bat going.

Mejia, who earned a spot in the pitching rotation, has asserted himself in that role. After sustaining a torn blister on his right middle finger in his last start, which cut his outing short, he went into the seventh inning giving up four hits. His final line of 6.2 scoreless innings and striking out seven extended his scoreless streak to a career best 13.2 innings.

He is off to a 3-0 start and lowered his ERA to 1.99, and Mets starters have quality starts, in six of their last seven games with four wins.  

Commented Collins about his starter coming off the blister “We weren't sure what he was going to give us. He gave us more than we expected, for sure."

Mejia got the support he needed from David Wright. An RBI single in the third inning off the Cardinals’ Tyler Lyons, in his first start, extended Wright’s hitting streak to 12-games. New York saw five straight reach off Lyons in the sixth inning and produced another run. Travis d’Arnaurd, the rookie catcher, off to a .192 start, had a career tying two- hits including a double and the RBI single in the sixth.

But, on this night, it was Mejia and the Mets bullpen.

“It does bother me a little bit, I feel pain, but the last year I felt pain over there,” Mejia said,” He was bothered last season with a similar issue, but more concern is about his elbow that was cleaned out with surgery last August.

 He added, “So I go out there and do the best I can, try to throw everything for strikes. And he credited Tejada and Murphy for their play in the infield. “They made a couple of double plays over there…that made me feel pretty good.”

Collins also had to feel good about his bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth, in his new role as the closer, got his first save since September 29 of last season when he was with the Pirates. Before that, Scott Rice and Carlos Torres recorded two outs apiece.

Torres, who was considered to have a role as a closer when Jose Valverde failed last week, struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth inning and in his last eight appearances the right-hander has an overall ERA of 0.79 with 14 strikeouts.

“As a team we have ups and downs,” said Torres. “We have long games and quick games. We are working hard as a team every day and will continue to do so.”

On this night, there were all positives for the Mets. And all they can do is keep working hard if they want to make an impact and play meaningful baseball in September…

ABREU JOINS THE METS: Bobby Abreu spent last season sitting home in Venezeula and this spring attempted the comeback with the Philadelphia Phillies. In Grapefruit games with the Phillies he had a .404 on base percentage and was released. Perhaps the Phillies saw the 40-year old would serve a limited role. The Mets gave him an opportunity and signed him to a minor league deal with Triple A Las Vegas.

It took him one month for Abreu to arrive at Citi Field. He was on the bench Monday night and almost had a pinch hit appearance in the eighth inning. Manager Terry Collins will use Abreu off the bench but there may be times he will get a start in the outfield.

"In order to stay sharp, he's got to get some at-bats," Collins said. "I'm going to try to pick some days to get him in the outfield." He will also be used as a left- hand threat off the bench and he could be utilized as the designated hitter when the Mets play American League teams.

The Mets next interleague series is in a few weeks with four games against the cross-town Yankees, a team where Abreu had a brief stint. The Mets visit Yankee Stadium for the final two games of a home-and-home four game series May 12-13.

Abreu, prior to the game Monday night said, "I worked a lot on my mechanics and my approach at the plate. I was watching a lot of video to see what I was doing wrong. My swing is quick right now, especially with the balls inside. Playing winter ball helped me a lot just to get back on track.”

His last Major league team was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. In 15 games with Las Vegas, Abreu batted .395 with four doubles, a home run and nine runs batted in.

“I was working hard over there (Caracus) and I was playing pretty much every day, to show and prove that at least I could have another opportunity. That's what I have right now."   

Abreu, a 15-year veteran, is basically here now to show he can be an addition. But the Mets, assuming they see production, will have decisions when Juan Lagares, one of many outfielders is cleared to return from his stint on the disabled list with a pulled right hamstring.

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