Mets hope Church has solved lefties

Mets hope Church has solved lefties

MIAMI -- In the moments that followed Game 1 of the 2001 World Series, while Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly was basking in the glow of the first Fall Classic victory in the history of the franchise, he noted one subtle aspect of the 9-1 victory that had encouraged him. It hardly was an afterthought when Brenly said, "And almost everybody has a batting average already."

The D-Backs had amassed 10 hits against Mike Mussina and three Yankees relievers, and the hits were spread among seven players. Tony Womack was the only starter who ended the game with .000 next to his name; i.e., almost everybody had a batting average.

Brenly was comfortable because most of his players had overcome inertia in one game. There could be only one 0-fer of Dave Winfield, Gil Hodges or Willie Wilson proportions to undermine the offense in subsequent games. "We got well before anyone got sick," Brenly said.

In a similar manner, the Mets emerged from their Opening Day victory with the same sense of accomplishment. They had accumulated 10 hits in beating the Marlins, 7-2, on Monday, and six of their eight regulars had hits. Only Carlos Delgado and Brian Schneider had gone hitless, and Schneider made good contact in three of his four at-bats.

Moreover, Marlon Anderson had a pinch-hit single, a broken-bat special.

"You never worry about how any of them look," Anderson said. "Especially the first one. You get the first one out of the way any way you can, so you don't have those zeros hanging over your head."

The most important of the Mets' hits, of course, was the bases-loaded double by David Wright in the fourth inning that produced the final three runs in the Mets' six-run rally; not that anyone had anticipated an extended 0-fer for Wright. In a broader sense, though, the single by Ryan Church against left-handed starting pitcher -- emphasis on left-handed -- Mark Hendrickson was more significant.

Church's production against left-handed pitching is one of the developments to monitor in the early weeks of the season. Church batted .229 in 118 at-bats against left-handed pitchers last season, and he had a .254 career average against them before he pulled a single through the right side to drive in the second run of the inning.

Manager Willie Randolph has said Church is his everyday right fielder, though he has acknowledged that a day off for Church probably would come against a left-handed starter. The manager was pleased by the hit.

"He didn't try to do too much," Randolph said. "He was trying to help us win."

Church was pleased, too.

"It has to start somewhere," he said. "Just as well that it came in the first game. Nice to get it out of the way early and win."

Marty Noble is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.