You know, a lot of people like to say that Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year, but the fact of the matter is…they’re wrong. The most wonderful time of the year is baseball season. And we’re officially underway with the Regular season and all the joy it brings to the world. With Opening Day officially in the books, it’s time to take a look back at all the excitement that happened throughout it and give it a proper review. I will be giving a regular 1st week review on Thursday, but I want to cover the Opening Day first.
Noah Syndergaard took the mound for his 2nd consecutive Opening Day start and looked to keep the Mets’ history of Opening Day wins alive. Facing a contender hopeful team in the St. Louis Cardinals, Syndergaard would be facing some familiar faces and some not so familiar faces. Being at this game live, there was a buzz in the air and we all knew that we were in for an absolute treat. For me, this was my first time seeing Noah pitch in person and although I was pretty high up in Left field, his stature and dominant presence on the mound could be felt. Starting out the game with a strikeout to Dexter Fowler, the season was OFFICIALLY underway, and Thor was back. He recorded the next 2 outs via groundouts to put up a scoreless 1st inning of the season. Starting the 2nd off with another strikeout, this time to former Marlin: Marcell Ozuna he would run into trouble in the form of Jose Martinez. Jose Martinez had Syndergaard’s number all game, but his first hit of the game was a single off Syndergaard. He’d eventually be driven in on a 2-run homer by Yadier Molina to put the Cardinals up 2-1. A funny moment though, as everyone in the crowd moaned and groaned over the homer, someone in the crowd reminded us all how many innings there were left of the season. To the exact number. That man is wonderful, and I thank him. Syndergaard bounced back quickly striking out Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong to end the inning. Keeping the strikeouts coming, he stuck out pitcher Carlos Martinez before striking out Dexter Fowler for a 2nd time and then Tommy Pham for his 7th strikeout of the game. Matt Carpenter led off the 4th with a double and after striking out Ozuna, Syndergaard was once again dealt with Jose Martinez. Martinez hit a single to Center Field that scored Carpenter. Nimmo didn’t hit the cutoff man and tried throwing home which is something he needs to change. I spoke about it during the Spring Training reviews and it’s something he needs to do if he wants to be a possible everyday player in the position. Syndergaard got Molina to fly out before giving up a single to DeJong. A ground out to Wong would end the inning with the score now tied at 3-3 courtesy of the RBI by Jose Martinez. The 5th inning was an entirely different beast on the offense side for the Mets but for the pitching it was much of the same, a strike out to the pitcher Martinez, a line out from Fowler and another strikeout to Tommy Pham. Needless to say, the strike outs were coming quick and often from Syndergaard. Taking the mound again in the 6th, Syndergaard got 2 quick outs via a fly out and ground out but was once again hit by Jose Martinez who would hit a home run off of Noah. A pop out by Molina ended the inning but Martinez had struck again going 3 for 3 against Syndergaard. That was all for Syndergaard but what a performance by one of the Mets’ aces. He finished the day going 6 innings, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits, giving up no walks and striking out TEN. Syndergaard became only the 2nd Mets pitcher to rack up 10 or more strike outs in an Opening Day start, second only to Pedro Martinez who struck out 12 back in 2005 against the Reds. The runs allowed might startle some people, but Noah was on the shelf for a while last season and this was his first proper start in a MLB game since his injury. It might not have been the PERFECT start to some (Noah in particular who nit-picked his start in an interview later in the day), but it was a great start and just what the Mets needed to start the season off. Syndergaard acknowledged Jose Martinez in a postgame interview saying, “I was kicking myself in the butt for allowing that Martinez guy to get a little too comfortable, but that won’t happen again.” Syndergaard is a confident guy and I’m not surprised by the comment. I know there was some talk in the booth during the next game about it, but I think the confidence is what makes Syndergaard such an important part of the rotation and the team in general. Sometimes you’ve just got to believe in yourself whether or not it gets perceived as “cocky” or “arrogant.”
So, with the dominant starting pitching provided by Noah Syndergaard covered, let’s move on to the bullpen. Gsellman came in for the 7th inning and quickly retired the first 3 batters he faced with strikeouts. Can’t ask for much more out of a starter turned reliever. Anthony Swarzak would come in after Gsellman and set down the side in order with 1 strikeout in the process. It was nice to see the newest part of the bullpen come in and have a good outing. After Swarzak it was time for Familia to come in and try to shut it down. It wasn’t a save situation but I’m sure it’s important for new manager Mickey Callaway to get his probable closer some work in. Familia set down the first 2 guys quickly but walked the next batter to the dismay of the crowd who at this point just wanted to go home because we had been freezing all day long. He got DeJong to line out and end the ball game giving the Mets their first win of the season. Not much needed from the bullpen in this game, Syndergaard went deep, and the offense provided a good amount of runs to keep it from being a dire situation for the pen.
Speaking of the offense providing runs, it’s time to talk about the offense and what they were able to do for their starting pitchers and relief pitchers. The game got underway with Brandon Nimmo reaching 1st after being hit by a pitch. Nimmo sprinted down to 1st in typical Nimmo fashion and was the first Mets’ base runner of the season. Cespedes struck out swinging for the 1st out but Jay Bruce would reach via a walk to put 2 men on with 1 out. Cabrera came up to bat and reached on a force attempt but a throwing error by Martinez would allow Bruce to reach 2nd and Nimmo to score the first run of the ball game. Not the prettiest ways to score a run, but a run is a run and the Mets would have their first of quite a few. Frazier grounded into a Double Play to end the inning, but the Mets were ahead early. The top of the 2nd saw the Cardinals take the lead on a 2-run homer but the Mets would strike back quickly. Gonzalez lined out, but Plawecki would draw a walk to reach base. Syndergaard would strike out swinging for the 2nd out. Amed Rosario (who I didn’t start in my fantasy team for whatever reason) smacked a single to advance Plawecki to 2nd. Nimmo would draw a walk and the bases were now loaded for Cespedes who went down swinging in the 1st. Cespedes would hit a 2-out single to left field to score Rosario and Plawecki, putting the Mets back in front 3-2. Jay Bruce would draw another walk to reload the bases, but nothing would come of it after Cabrera went down swinging to end the inning. The score would remain the same in the 3rd but Gonzalez did draw a walk that was followed up by a double from Plawecki. Syndergaard struck out and Rosario grounded out to end the inning, but Plawecki was looking good at the plate. Nothing came of the 4th inning BUT the Mets would thrive in the 5th inning. Cabrera flew out to start the inning, but Frazier would draw a walk to set up Adrian Gonzalez to get his 1st hit as a Met and he’d deliver with a double that would score Frazier thanks to some aggressive base running advice from Glenn Sherlock. The Mets would take the lead once more making it 4-3. With 1 out, the Cardinals would make a pitching change and bring in Matt Bowman. Plawecki would draw a walk to have men on 1st and 2nd with 1 out. A perfect sac bunt by Syndergaard would advance the runners. Rosario came up to the plate looking to pick up where he left off and he did in a big way when he hit a 2 run single to left field making it 3 to 6 New York. Brandon Nimmo would hit a single of his own and the Mets had 2 men on with 2 out. Cespedes hit a single of his own to score Rosario making it a 4-run ball game now. Another pitching change was done by the Cardinals, this time bringing in Brett Cecil. Jay Bruce singled to right field to score Nimmo and making it a 5 run ball game. The Mets had officially batted around as Cabrera came back up to the plate with 2 men on. During the at bat, Bruce stole 2nd base…with Molina behind the plate. I love it. Unfortunately, Cabrera’s bad day at the plate continued as he popped out to end the inning, but the Mets had put up a 5 spot to give them a sizeable lead over the Cardinals. No scoring change in the bottom of the 6th, but both Frazier and Gonzalez hit singles to start the inning. A lineout, pop out and strikeout would end the inning but it’s great to see the new guys in Queens get some hits. Nimmo smacked another single in the 7th to continue his good day at the plate. In the bottom of the 8th, Cabrera reached base via a walk. Frazier struck out and up came Adrian Gonzalez. 2 wild pitches would advance Cabrera to 2nd, and then to 3rd and I loved seeing him challenge Molina’s arm. Gonzalez drew a 1 out walk and a single by Plawecki would score Cabrera to give the Mets some more insurance heading into the 9th inning. Lagares came up to bat and grounded into a Double Play to end the inning. The offense prior was enough though as the Mets scored 9 runs off 12 hits.
Overall, a great game and a great way to open the season for the Mets. Syndergaard did what he was tasked with doing and excelled at it. Sure, he gave up some runs, but he struck out 10 and didn’t walk anyone. The sky is the limit for a healthy Syndergaard and he is a key piece of the Mets’ rotation and ultimate success. The bullpen looked great, Swarzak impressed in his Mets’ major league debut, Gsellman looked really good out of the bullpen and Familia worked around the walk to end the game and seal the win for the Mets. The offense was fantastic and they all did what they had to do. There were some people left on base and the team went 5-for-15 with RISP but they scored when they had to and they kept their pitcher in the game which is what’s important. But mostly important, they helped the team get the win and it was great to see.
So that does it for the Opening Day review, I will have my weekly review on Thursday (I hope so. With school and work it might be a day or two later, but I’m aiming for Thursday.) So before I end the post though, I'd like to share some other notes from my 1st Mets' Opening Day. It was the first time I've actually seen a Mets' win in Citi Field. Granted I haven't gone to many games at Citi Field, it was still exciting to finally leave the stadium with a big smile knowing the team got the win. In past experiences, I've seen deGrom pitch on Father's Day in 2016 where the Mets got shutout by Julio Teheran and the Braves 6-0. I've seen Tommy Milone pitch against the Giants and Familia blow a save, I've seen Montero pitch 3 or 4 times and look like you'd imagine Montero would look like. So this was a healthy change of pace. The crowd was really loud for deGrom and the captain David Wright during the roster call. Bruce got some super loud "BRUCE" chants during his introduction as well. I tried to start a Lugomania chant but it never caught on sadly. There were some empty seats but for the most part the stadium was packed and the energy was unreal. The parking lot itself was a madhouse, flags everywhere, dancing contests, fires, blue and orange smoke bombs, it was wild. So that was my Opening Day experience, I just wanted to share that because it was a very cool experience. Stay tuned and stay updated by following me on twitter @Keiths_Mustache ! Send me an email, leave a comment, or any of the above.