Mickey Callaway managed his first game as a Mets manager on Thursday.
It was as good as he hoped to be. He envisioned this happening in his first ever game of his managerial career. It was the way he drew it up.
The new Mets manager received a big five-run inning from his team’s offense, efficient starting pitching by Noah Syndergaard and excellent bullpen work in the Mets’ 9-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field. It was a first game and a first win he will always remember after becoming the first Mets manager to win his debut with the team since Jeff Torborg in 1992.
Callaway knows life as a manager won’t be this easy, especially being a Mets manager. He is going to enjoy those days as he can. For a flawed Mets team, he doesn’t have the luxury to sit in the dugout and have his players make him look good every game.
The lineup that he crafted with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson’s input (such as batting Noah Syndergaard eighth in the lineup) created dividends. His leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo had two hits and reached base four times. His No. 2 hitter Yoenis Cespedes drove in three runs with two hits to show for it. His cleanup hitter Asdrubal Cabrera worked out a walk. He tabbed Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki as his Opening Day catcher by inserting him in the lineup, and he hit the ball couple of times, worked out a walk couple of times, scored two runs and drove in a run. He even had Adrian Gonzalez getting two hits, scoring a run and walking couple of times.
The eureka moment Callaway had with his lineup came in the fifth inning. It started with Todd Frazier getting an one-out walk, and Gonzalez had his Mets moment by driving in Frazier with a RBI double off Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez that would give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Amed Rosario hit a two-run RBI single off Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman that would score Gonzalez and Plawecki (he got on base on a walk), giving the Mets the a 6-3 lead. Nimmo got his first hit of the game that would move Rosario to second, and Cespedes’ RBI single would score Rosario to make it a 7-3 game while moving Nimmo to second. Jay Bruce would finish the Mets’ scoring in the fifth inning by hitting a RBI single off Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil that would score Nimmo to make it an 8-3 game while moving Cespedes to third.
In that inning, the Mets scored five runs while getting five hits. The Cardinals used three pitchers to try to get three outs.
The Mets anticipate the lineup will create damage this season. It’s the least of their worries, even if your average Mets fan wants to savage the hitters the Mets have.
Syndergaard didn’t pitch like his vintage self. He gave up a two-run home run to Yadier Molina to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the second inning, and he gave up a game-tying RBI single to Jose Martinez in the fourth inning that would make it a 3-3 game.
No matter. Syndergaard settled down after that, and he retired seven of eight Cardinals hitters to finish his day. His only hiccup in that stretch was giving up a home run to Martinez in the sixth inning to cut the Cardinals’ deficit to 8-4.
Overall, he gave up four runs on six hits in six innings, including giving up two home runs. He did minimize the Cardinals’ damage and he struck out 10 in the process. On a day he was not himself, he found a way to grind through it like a great starter would when he does not have his best stuff.
Callaway was more than happy to take it. As a former pitching coach, he understands the plight of an Opening Day starter maybe being hyped up for this start, especially in his team’s home opener. That was the case with Syndergaard. This was his second Opening Day start of his career, so until he has so much experience of starting on Opening Day, he is going to be amped, which no one knows whether or not Syndergaard has it or not.
Syndergaard has spoiled Mets fans to the point if he is not dominating, it’s not a quality start. This is what starters of his caliber tend to do with fans. The former Indians pitching coach knows he will get more great starts out of his star pitcher this year, and he also can rely on his starter to battle even without his best stuff.
The bullpen will be something Callaway will have to navigate as manager this year, but on this day, he did not have to manage them. He watched Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak and Jeurys Familia throw three scoreless innings. He knows this is not going to be ideal all the time with his relievers, but he will take it whenever he can.
Overall, it was the type of day a manager can enjoy. Especially when this is his first impression to his new players, bosses and fans.
Callaway likely had a nice meal with some red wine hours after the game. He probably had a good sleep.
He should not get used to days like this, though. Life as a Mets manager means experiencing downs more than highs as his predecessors will say.
Thankfully for him, he gets one full day to absorb and enjoy with the Mets having a day off on Friday.
It’s something he will never forget ever thanks to his players coming up big for him.