By Arnie Leshin
Friday afternoon at Citi Field was quite an opening day for the New York Mets. It came 299 days after the Major League’s last regular-season game, four months after spring training was shut down because of thecoronavirus pandemic, and upped their MLBbest opening day record to 37-20 by winning game one for the eighth straight time.
It was only 1-0 over the Atlanta Braves, and the impressive start for the home team had to rely on support from paid-for cardboard cutouts. No fans in the stands, so they had to take to the tubes, SNY for the New York fans and ESPN for the rest of the country, and new New York manager Luis Rojas didn’t have to wait long for his initial victory.
Back-to-back Cy Young right-hander Jacob deGrom set the tone. Coming off tightness in his back, he had no problem getting the start following six strong simulated bull pen innings last Monday. He began with an array of first-inning fastballs of 99 mph variety, had batters chasing high blazers, then mixed in an array of sliders, some change ups, and just had the back-to-back National League East winners bailing out as he struck out eight, walked none and allowed only a measly infield hit.
Because he hadn’t worked much after the back tightness, deGroom came out after five frames, making 72 pitchers, striking out two more combined with a first-pitch fly out to J.D. Davis in left field. In came righty Seth Lugo, probably the team’s second-best best pitcher, and he sailed long with two strong frames, giving up one hit, fanning four, walking none, and relying on heat and control. Southpaw Justin Wilson reported in for the eight inning, gave up a walk and whiffed two.
Wilson worked the top of the seventh, and in the bottom half, designated hitter YoenisCespedes hit the big blow, a second-pitch cutter off of righty Curtis Martin that found the 11th row in the lower deck of the left field stands. The Mets’ dugout unloaded, and with the stands empty of real fans. they were heard and sees on television. It was big, the 34-year-old righty slugger hadn’t hit a home run since July 10, 2018, and he now has hit home runs in his last three at-bats, plus he hadn’t played a real game in two years.
“You can see,” said Mets’ new manager Luis Rojas,” that Ces still has that quick swing, bat power, and we noticed it in spring training. I thought we played a very good game and he played a huge part.”
That blow would make Wilson the winning pitcher. But In the ninth came the huge effort from the supposed right-handed mop-up man Edwin Diaz, and he didn’t disappoint, allowing one walk, getting an fly ball out to right, and striking two, including designated hitter Matt Adams, who was first with the Mets until earlier this week when he decided to use his free agent eligibility and instead sign with Atlanta after playing last year for the Washington Nationals. But all Adams got for this was twice going down swinging.
The Mets outhit the Braves, six to three. Jeff McNeil singled twice, and Robinson Cano, Amed Rosario and Brandon Nimmo
added a single each. Mets’ rookie AndresGImenez, usually a shortstop, made two good plays at second after replacing Cano. And Diaz gave the game ball to Roja
Going back to the New York franchise’s start in 1962, it lost its first eight openers and this included 1969, the year it won the World Series.