Kodai Senga is starting to get it.
I looked at what Senga has done in his first nine starts compared to what other pitchers who came from Japan did in their first nine starts in a new league in a new country. Hideo Nomo was a freak of nature. Shohei Ohtani was also worried about hitting at the same time as he was pitching. He compares favorably with Daisuke Matsuzaka, but Daisuke had a much lower FIP in those first nine starts.
Tuesday night’s start against the Phillies might very well represent a fulcrum point for Senga. He went seven innings and gave up one hit, struck out nine and walked nobody to help the Mets to a 2-0 win in his best start of the season. Of the other three, only Nomo had a great 10th start, and not even that was as good as Senga’s 10th start (although Nomo’s 11th and 12th starts were complete game shutouts where he gave up 8 hits combined, so the ante has been upped.)
After tonight, he might have taken the off ramp away from the Matsuzaka Freeway and on to Hideo Drive. The key number for me tonight was 66 strikes out of 100 pitches. In the past nine starts, teams had the luxury of laying off the ghost fork because none of the other pitches were landing. But Senga had command. Command means the Phillies had to chase anything close. Six of the 9 strikeouts that he had were off the ghost fork. But he blew them away with number 1 when he needed to.
Senga now has a 1.20 ERA at home, and since the Mets have played the least home games of anyone in baseball, that’s going to mean Senga is going to get a few extra home starts down the stretch. If that extra help combines with Senga keeping his command, look out.
Of course, Kodai had some help tonight:
BRANDON NIMMO BRINGS BACK A HOMER! pic.twitter.com/ISznsnrQ0e
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 31, 2023
That hellacious catch was followed by Francisco Lindor’s homer in the bottom of the inning to make it 1-0, and Senga got back into a very nice groove after that. Also getting into a groove after some great defense was Adam Ottavino in the 8th. Relieving Senga, he threw a four pitch walk to JT Realmuto, who decided that he was going to steal off Ottavino with a 2-0 lead. Considering Ottavino has probably had holding runners on in his nightmares all season, it wasn’t the worst move in the world to try it in the 8th inning to try to play for one run now and one run later. But an exquisite tag by Jeff McNeil thwarted the attempt.
Francisco Álvarez and Jeff McNeil team up to catch Realmuto stealing! pic.twitter.com/mKdnUt0AtV
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 31, 2023
After that, Ottavino seemed like the weight of the world was off his shoulders, as he found the strike zone and set down Alec Bohm and Brandon Marsh down without too much of a problem, so there’s no measuring how huge that play was.
David Robertson gave up a hit in the 9th but then got a game ending double play to send the Mets home smiling. And once they got there, they probably found out that the A’s beat the Braves for the second straight night and keep the Mets four games back. (The Marlins are also four games back WTF?)
But the Braves loss is a perfect segue to …
Today’s Hate List
I was going to make today’s list the entire Clemens family. But Brian Snitker gets the honors tonight.
Here’s how the Braves lost tonight:
🎶 Celebrate good times, come on 🎶 pic.twitter.com/XJlBLVWAYb
— A’s on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 31, 2023
Great for the Mets, and great for the A’s, who the Mets should send hamburgers to if they win the division by two games because of these two remarkable victories they’ve had over Atlanta. But I just want to point out that for some reason, Brian Snitker decided not to challenge that play, a play that scored the game winning run.
BUT IN A MEANINGLESS GAME IN 2017 WITH THE BRAVES WINNING 9-2 IN THE NINTH, BRIAN SNITKER USED VIDEO REPLAY AGAINST THE METS!!!!!
He annoys the ever living piss out of me.