The Amazins in Astoria: March 21-24

Welcome back to The Amazins in Astoria! This is the second installment in a season long series in which I chronicle my next seven months or so in relation to the New York Mets.

For the first installment, click here.

March 21st-Spring Training vs. Miami Marlins

While waiting on 59th Street for my bus to Long Island, I try to pop into the Starbucks around the corner. As I get to the door, I realize that it is not just an ordinary Starbucks, but a Starbucks x Amazon collaboration in which I have to scan myself into the store with my Amazon account. Feeling a bit too dystopian for me, I head over to the breakfast cart a block away and grab a water and powdered donut for 1.50 in cash.

Before I lived in fear of our eventual digital overlords, I lived in fear of Max Scherzer. On any given day during his tenure with the Nats, I knew that Mad Max was ready to light up the Mets. His seventeen K no-hitter against New York in 2015 still haunts me. Yeah, he pitched just as well with the Tigers and the Dodgers, but his appearances against the Mets with those teams were too few and far between to really keep me up at night. When it was announced that Max was coming to the Mets, I couldn't figure out if I was more excited or relieved.

Since I'm on the bus, I'll have to stick to the radio feed for now. I'm not too annoyed, since I already am pretty well versed with what Scherzer can do. Since Howie and company are not broadcasting this game, I'm listening to the local Miami call on WINZ. It's interesting to see how people on the outside think about the Mets, as the Marlins announcers describe how this new luxury tax tier was basically written to deal with Steve Cohen, which they follow up with a nervous laugh.

Offensively, the Mets get off to a lukewarm start against Elieser Hernandez, with a Guillorme leadoff double the only hit of the frame. I don't pay much attention to it, as the real show begins in the bottom of the first. Scherzer takes the mound for the first time as a Met, and with two fierce four-seams...allows Jazz Chisholm to get a leadoff single. Not too deep of a hole to climb out of, as Max continues to hammer the four-seam to force two groundouts. Chisholm gets sent home on an Avisail Garcia, but Scherzer limits the damage to just one run by striking out Jesus Aguilar. Not the hot start I was hoping for, but a good foundation to build on.

Scherzer builds on this foundation fast, as he stays in for four more innings, relying heavily on that four-seam the entire time. As I listen to the radio broadcast, I'm watching the statcast on the MLB app, and it's mesmerizing watching how Scherzer clusters his pitches in the lower center of the strike zone. His consistency is like that of a sharpshooter, and he finishes the day allowing just two hits and one run, striking out five. While Miami scores two more on Butto in the seventh inning, and the Mets fail to put up any solid offensive response, I still see the day as a success. Max Scherzer is a Met, and he's ready to go hard.

As I arrive at my friend's house in Southold, we turn on SNY and catch the last inning of Johan Santana's no-hitter from 2012.

March 22nd-Spring Training vs. Houston Astros

There's a lot of news off the field on the morning of DeGrom Day. First, nine players are re-assigned to the minors, including Patrick Mazeika, who hit two walk-offs in one week last year. They can take you away from us, king, but they can never take away the memories you gave us. Elsewhere in the front office, several players, including Pete Alonso, complete contract arbitration. Finally, in a pregame conversation with the press, Buck Showalter says that DeGrom will pitch two innings in his return to the mound today.

On my bus ride home, I pass a farm in Riverhead with a sign out front that reads LAVE_DER. We're still about two months away from Memorial Day, so they've got plenty of time to repaint that N.

I get back to my apartment at around noon, which gives me plenty of time to peruse some of the other spring training games going on around the majors. I see the Phillies wallop the Tigers, leaving me to stress about the Mets' bats way too early in the year. I then flip over to the Dodgers vs. the Reds, and get my first glimpse of Freddie Freeman in Dodger Blue. I don't think that's something I'll ever get used to. Finally, it's time to flip on SNY, as DeGrom takes the mound for the first time since July 7th, 2021. Man, this Scherzer-DeGrom back to back combo is something I can really get used to this year.

DeGoat looks as dominant as ever, striking out the first three batters on fifteen pitches. As expected, he leans on his slider to land the killing blow on two of these batters. In the second, Lewis Brinson hits one down the third base line for a double, but Alonso snags a foul ball from Jason Castro, and DeGrom snags two more strikeouts to keep the 'Stros scoreless after two. In just two innings, DeGrom has five strikeouts, the same amount that Scherzer had in five the day before.

Even though DeGrom doesn't return to the mound in the third inning, I'm very impressed with how this team holds their own against the defending American League Champs. Ottavino, Williams, and Claudio go for a combined four innings without allowing a hit. Ottavino ended his frame on a nasty slider to strike out Chas McCormick, giving me some confidence in his spot as the go-to reliever. Offensively, the boys leave themselves stranded on base a lot at first, such as when Jeff McNeil grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the third. However, they hit their stride in the fifth inning. Dom Smith, who has been hot in the Grapefruit League this year, hits a lead off single, followed by a Nick Meyer single, then a Brandon Nimmo sac fly that advances the runners to second and third. Lindor chops a ball to short that's erroneously fielded, and everyone's safe, including Smith, who scores the first run. Jeff McNeil then hits a sac fly of his own to send Meyer and his Mustache home, and the Mets are up 2-0 in the fifth.

As Alonso pops out to end the inning, the Amazins are now fully on the defensive. As Stephen Nogosek takes the mound in the eighth inning, my roommate gets home from work. While I'm impressed with his two strikeout inning, my roommate is impressed by his facial hair, prompting her to list "players she approves of." I'm not sure what the specific metrics were, but the list goes as follows:

  1. Stephen Nogosek

  2. Stephen Nogosek, again

  3. Derek Jeter

  4. Not A-Rod

I ask if DeGrom could make the list, and she says no since he has not been on a lot of winning teams. I try to rebut with the fact that he lead the Mets in the first half of last season with a sub-1 ERA, but she says I'm just making things up. As Rob Zastryzny strikes out the side to seal the 2-0 win, my roommate hits me with the toughest question of the night.

"Do you think players are upset when they get drafted by the Mets?"

"...No? Why would they?"

"Well, they'll never win."

March 23rd-No Game Today

On the off day, I gather some of my notes while also trying to finish the Lord of the Rings, a book that I started in Spring 2020. In opposite fashion to the Nazgul, I wonder if the lack of a Mets ring for much longer will turn me into a wraith.

March 24th-Spring Training vs. Miami Marlins

I'm meeting people for drinks in Manhattan right around first pitch, and every tv in the bar is playing the Sweet Sixteen. I'm not complaining, but it's hard for me to get the Mets score without rudely checking my phone every five minutes. I take the L on getting in-game updates for the night, but am thrilled later on to see that the Mets beat down Miami 9-3. The bats connected, with Lindor and Canha leading the way, and 10 strikeouts from the bullpen gave me some confidence that this team will be able to reach deep for contributors throughout 2022.