Opening Day observations
Opening Day at Citi Field on Monday was packed with anticipation, hype, an impressive pregame show and a promising pitching matchup.
There was tremendous buildup, and the crowd of 41,000 was into the contest that matched aces Josh Johnson and Johan Santana.
For five innings, there was drama and a close game. Then, the Marlins turned sloppy in the sixth inning, committing three errors, and New York capitalized on the mistakes and claimed a 7-1 win.
Tuesday’s day off provided an opportunity to reflect and digest all that took place in the opener.
* One thing is clearly, Josh Johnson is not yet on track. The stomach virus he dealt with late in Spring Training set his preparation back. And it showed. Granted, the 26-year-old is not yet in top form. Still, something else stood out. Johnson was doing more nibbling with his pitches than attacking. That was evident by four walks and a hit batter in five plus innings.
From the first batter he faced, that was clear. Johnson had Alex Cora in a 1-2 count, and then hit the Mets leadoff batter with a slider. With a 95 mph fastball, Johnson is at his best when he is pounding the strike zone, and not being so fine on the corners.
* A key play that didn’t get much mention was Luis Castillo’s at-bat in the first inning. After Cora reached, Castillo hit a grounder to second. Dan Uggla fielded it cleanly, flipped to Hanley Ramirez for the force at second. The Marlins nearly turned the double play, but a hustling Castillo beat the throw to first. Instead of two outs, the Mets had a base runner. David Wright followed with a two-run homer. Castillo pushing it down the line gave the Mets an extra run.
* The brightest star for the Marlins on Monday was Hanley Ramirez. With the big crowd and attention on the game, the two-time All-Star stepped up, going 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Ramirez also made a terrific unassisted double play, robbing Cora of a run-scoring hit in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Cora ripped a hard liner. Ramirez dove to his left to make the nice grab. He showed the ball to the umpire, and then stepped on second to double up Jeff Francoeur.
* The wind conditions made just about every fly ball an adventure. The end result was center fielder Cameron Maybin had a tough day. Maybin has tremendous promise, and one rough afternoon is no reason to be overly critical. But getting better jumps and reads on fly balls will be something Maybin keeps working on. He had some issues with his reads in Spring Training. Citi Field has a lot of ground to cover, but Maybin will have even more territory to roam at Sun Life Stadium. Cody Ross, now playing right field, has shown he can play center field at a high level. If Maybin struggles in center, a possibility down the line could be switching Ross and Maybin.
* Wes Helms took part in his 11th Opening Day. Helms didn’t get into the game, but he was on deck in the ninth inning when Gaby Sanchez made the final out.
* The Marlins one run scored on Monday was the lowest run total for the team on Opening Day since losing 1-0 at Houston in 2006.
– Joe Frisaro