The New York Mets hit town Thursday night for their first trip here since 2006 in a good mood. They had wiped out a 4-0 deficit to post a 9-4 win over Cincinnati and there were smiles all around when a team bonding exercise had them board their plane wearing hockey sweaters.
Many sported New York Rangers gear or sweaters from their hometown, although New Jersey native Andres Torres, not a hockey fan, was assigned a Devils jersey and was stunned by the ferocity of heckling he took from Rangers fans on his way out of Citi Field.
No Sabres jerseys, even though the Triple-A team is in Buffalo. Said one Met: "Nice place, nice people, but Buffalo isn't where you want to be so you don't think about it."
Before folks in the 716 or at Visit Buffalo Niagara get all up in arms, that's not a slam. That's reality. There's Triple-A and there's the big leagues. Things are going better for the Bisons than they have the last couple of years and dramatically better than expected for their parent too.
Until Friday night, that is. The opener of a three-game interleague series here was lots of boom for the Toronto Blue Jays and a complete bust for the Amazins. Five Toronto home runs later, the final score was Jays 14, Mets 5.
Mets manager and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Collins had a good laugh before the game about what it meant to have a better record than the Yankees for at least one day in mid-May. After all, the Yankees are the Yankees and the Mets are supposed to lose 100 games.
"We're just trying to grind it out each and every day. The Yankees are going to get it going," Collins said. "They're not buried by any stretch of the imagination and we're not trying to compare ourselves to the Yankees at all. What's really helped us is we've really pitched good. We've actually played pretty good defense. The nights we make mistakes, we get beat like anybody else."
Foreboding words that proved true. Starter Jonathon Niese (2-2) made plenty of mistakes and he got killed. The Blue Jays belted five home runs -- giving them 11 in three days against the Mets and Yankees -- and Niese gave up four for the first time in his career.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia and No. 9 hitter Rajai Davis both went deep twice. Arencibia opened the scoring with a two-out, three-run bomb to left in the first and finished the game with a career-high six RBIs.
"It seemed like every pitch I threw that they hit, they barreled up on them and they flew out," Niese said. "There's games where I have good stuff and I get rocked, and games where I don't have good stuff and I throw seven scoreless. I've just got to kind of flush this one and move on."
In innings 1-2-3 this season, Niese's ERA is 7.13. In innings 4-6, Niese has given up only one earned run and the ERA is 0.53. So what gives?
"If I knew, we'd certainly fix it. I don't have an answer for you," Collins said. "There's way too much plate, there's balls in the hitting zone and they're just squaring them up way too easy."
Davis drove in four, with two-run homers in both the third and fifth. Rookie third baseman Yan Gomes had the other long ball, a first-pitch shot to left in the second that was the first of his major-league career and thus the first in history by a player born in Brazil.
On the mound, the Mets are going to need some help. At spacious Citi, New York is 12-8 with a 3.43 ERA this season. On the road, the Mets are 9-10 and Friday's blowup pushed the ERA to 5.97.
According to an ESPNNY.com report, the Mets will promote Jeremy Hefner from the Bisons today. Hefner (3-2, 2.72) was supposed to start for the Herd on Sunday against Indianapolis in Coca-Cola Field but is needed in case scheduled starter Miguel Batista has a short outing like Niese. Reliever Manny Acosta gave up five runs after replacing Niese, pushing his ERA to 10.53 and making him a clear candidate to be shipped out.
The Mets managed just four hits Friday, three in six innings against Toronto starter Ricky Romero (5-1). They're being carried by third baseman David Wright, who went 1 for 3 while battling a severe head cold and is now hitting .409.
In part because of his illness and the hard turf here, Wright will take off today's game. Struggling first baseman Ike Davis sat down Friday and will return to the lineup today to try to get going in a season that has seen him bat just .164.
"We're not crushing the ball in any sense," Collins said. "We've got to swing better. Obviously a lot of it is we have to get Ike going."