I went to Port St. Lucie Sunday afternoon to see the Mets take on the Cardinals in front of a packed house.
There were a lot of disappointed Cardinals fans at the stadium who found out that Albert Pujols did not make the trip.
They would eventually be more disappointed in the Cardinals pitching staff, as for the second time in as many home games, the Mets would go on to win by 10 runs with a 13-3 victory.
So my first two spring training games had Mets victories by football scores, and it was a great time as a fan to see the Mets playing so well.
I would like to take this time to mention right off the bat that the reports of the demise of the man pictured above have been greatly exaggerated.
Johan Santana was in the house and he looked to be in good spirits, signing autographs for some youngsters and chatting it up in the dugout pregame.
I snapped that photo during the Cardinals batting practice as I was able to get to the park decently early Sunday. The Mets presumably took BP on another field because they didn't take BP on the main field, at least when I was there.
But on to the game notes. Pat Misch started for the Mets and went 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits while walking one and striking out one. He got hit pretty hard all afternoon, but he had good defense behind him.
Oliver Perez got booed pretty loudly, which was impressive in a sense considering how many Cardinals fans were in attendance. Mets fans got very loud for his introduction.
Perez came in to clean up Misch's mess in the fourth inning, coming in with the bases empty and pitching to left-handed second baseman Daniel Descalso. Perez got him to pop out to Castillo on a 2-2 count, and that was the only batter he faced.
Starting with Perez's 0.1 IP, the Mets bullpen threw shutout ball. Lefty Tim Byrdak had an interesting inning in the seventh, when he walked the only left-handed batter he faced, hit a batter, but retired three right-handed batters to escape the inning.
The most impressive Mets pitchers by far on Sunday were right-handers Blaine Boyer and Taylor Buchholz. Each of them pitched two scoreless innings, and each allowed only one hit and struck out three.
Boyer pitched the fifth and sixth innings and had the best velocity of any pitcher for either team. All three of his strikeouts were swinging strikeouts, including a 94 mph heater that David Freese couldn't handle. The projected starting third baseman of the Cardinals had a couple of doubles off Misch, but Boyer handled him easily.
The only hit Boyer allowed was an opposite field single to Matt Holliday, who was DH'ing for the Cardinals. The only really hard hit ball he allowed was a line drive one hopper from outfielder Jon Jay that Wright picked for a 5-3 putout.
Taylor Buchholz was the most impressive pitcher for the Mets on Sunday. He pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing only a single up the middle to pinch-hitter Ryan Jackson, who did not have a name on his jersey.
Buchholz had his fastball, changeup and breaking ball working well, as he got all three of his strikeouts swinging, including the final out of the game. He got more swing-and-misses in his two innings than any pitcher I saw in either game I've been at so far.
Buchholz faced 8 batters, and respectively he got a groundout, a ground ball single, a strikeout, and a fly out in the eighth, and a groundout, a strikeout, a hit by pitch and a strikeout in the ninth.
He really dominated the hitters he faced, although you have to take it with a grain of salt as none of them were major league starters. Still though, Buchholz was impressive. He and Boyer both looked like viable right-handed options out of the pen Sunday.
I can't believe I haven't talked about the offense yet. The Mets scored 13 runs, winning by ten runs for the second consecutive home game.
Scott Hairston had a monster game at the plate, going 3 for 4 and a walk with two home runs, one off Jaime Garcia and one off ex-Met Raul Valdes.
All three of Hairston's hits were rockets, and he played all nine innings in RF. He looks like a nice pickup by Sandy Alderson as a fourth outfielder who's definitely capable of filling in for Beltran in RF if needed.
Luis Hernandez had himself a nice game as the DH, batting ninth. He hit a two-run triple off Garcia in the third inning, and he was 2 for 4 overall with two runs scored.
The man he's likely competing with for the backup middle infield job, Chin-lung Hu also had a nice game. Hu came in to play shortstop for Reyes and went 2 for 2 with two runs scored as well.
There was a bizarre play involving David Wright at the plate that I caught on video and will try to upload tomorrow.
Wright flied to the center fielder with two outs on what should have been an easy can-of-corn pop out to end the inning, but it was dropped in the gap for a three-base error. Pagan scored on the play, and Wright attempted the extremely rare four-base error but was gunned out at the plate rather easily.
Speaking of the Mets center fielder, Pagan hit a monster three-run homer that ended Jaime Garcia's day. It was a screaming liner that banged off a sign above the home run line on the left field wall that was one of the hardest hit balls of the day.
One guy who didn't have a good day, again, was Jason Bay.
He's really been struggling lately and I'm starting to lose confidence that he'll ever live up to his contract. I don't want to read too much into a few spring training at bats, but he really has looked awful in the two games I've seen him play.
On a related note, I don't understand why Bay got replaced mid-game in both of the games I went to. If anything, I feel like Bay should've stayed in the game to get some more at bats, because he was really struggling.
I really hope Bay took extra BP after he came out of the game. Thank you Omar, for that one last going away present of a bloated five-year deal.
Bay struck out swinging in all three of his at-bats on Friday, and Sunday he struck out looking twice and grounded out to third. Yikes.
Among the replacements, Justin Turner had a nice game going 2 for 2 with an RBI, and Willie Harris juuuust missed a grand slam when he hit a two-run ground rule double in the eighth.
That just about wraps it up for my recap of Sunday's game. I had another amazing Taco in a Helmet as well as a char-grillled pretzel which was pretty good as well.
I will try to upload some more videos tomorrow, but I'll leave you with a video I shot of Luis Hernandez's two-run triple off of Garcia. I pretty much jinxed him as you can hear in the video. It's pretty funny looking back on it.