In the 48 hours proceeding last night’s game I had worked myself on into a frenzied state of anxiety about the rotation and the bullpen. The low point came when I was on my way home on Saturday night, and got into a conversation with a fan on the N train, who shared my apprehensions about Wagner (he disagreed, however, with my assertion that we had to wait seventeen hours for the start of baseball, dating the start of the season to when he began ‘drinking and watching movies’ with his friends, which event was apparently scheduled for somewhat earlier). By Sunday I was capable of nothing except for watching the re-play of the 2006 division clincher on SNY, which, for some reason, I found fascinating.
Anyway, it is pretty difficult to want the opener to go much better than it did. Scoring five runs off of Chris Carpenter is always a good thing; six innings of one-run ball from Glavine is always appreciated. The defense, which has been maligned by sports writing sources lately, was fantastic- Reyes and Valentine showing themselves to still be double-play artists, Beltran with an excellent outfield assist, Lo Duca more than solid behind the plate, and, perhaps most pleasantly, a very nice diving catch from Alou. The bullpen, despite their best efforts, pitched three innings of scoreless relief.
Actually, for all the base runners they allowed, I am most impressed with the relievers. Particularly, since I skimmed a piece in the Daily News calling it into question, I think the choice to use Joe Smith for most of the eighth was excellent. What is best about it is that Willie Randolph is telling everyone who cares to listen that the individual win is less important to this club than the information about how one of their young relievers will perform under pressure. Randolph doesn’t need to play mind games with the Cardinals, and the opportunity to see what Smith would do against Albert Pujols (walked him) was more irreplaceable than the opportunity to notch up a W- Randolph seems to think that they will have opportunities to do the latter all season long.
As for Smith’s actual performance, there are a couple of ways of looking at it. He faced three batters and gave out a walk and a hit, and recorded one strike-out. On the other hand, barely out of college, in his first-ever big league appearance, he faced three batters from the reigning world champions, including the best hitter in baseball, and didn’t give up any runs, and that’s pretty good.
It seems sort of unfair that they have an off day today. But after waiting all winter for game 1, I guess I can wait until Tuesday for game 2- barely.