Mets fans, rejoice! The Mets lost on Opening Day!
Why is this a good thing? Because maybe the baseball gods are finally evening out a track record of disappointment the rest of the season. In recent years, the Mets have done a great job of winning on Opening Day. They usually win on Opening Day, and then it’s all downhill from there.
In fact, they own baseball’s highest winning percentage on Opening Day (.654), with a mark of 34-18 going into what could have been the eighth win in their last nine Opening Days.
Instead, they lament a heartbreaking loss to the Washington Nationals, 9-7, in 10 innings. It was a game in which they led for the first half of the game, 4-2, and had a one-run lead after eight, 5-4.
But the bullpen said, no thank you, and coughed up five runs in the ninth and tenth to give brand new manager Matt Williams his first win in his first game signing the lineup card for the Nats.
What might also have been an enormously uplifting walk-off home run by David Wright in the tenth, a two-run blast off Washington’s Jerry Blevins went for naught since Washington plated four in the top of the extra frame.
The loss wasted a fine effort by Dillon Gee, trusted with the Opening Day assignment for the first time in his career, the 23rd pitcher to open a season for the Mets. Gee’s only misfire in his first six innings of work was a two-run homer launched by Washington’s Adam LaRoche in the second inning.
Gee unraveled in the seventh as he approached the 100-pitch plateau. With one out, Bryce Harper singled, and after Ian Desmond forced him out, Gee walked LaRoche. Then Anthony Rendon doubled, scoring LaRoche.
Out came Mets skipper Terry Collins, and out went Gee, followed by two relievers who nibbled too much with the strike zone. Carlos Torres walked Nate McLouth. In came Scott Rice, who walked Denard Span on four pitches to tie the game. One of the new members of the bullpen – the fourth pitcher of the inning – veteran Jose Valverde, then came in to close the barn door, but the horses and the lead was out of the corral.
Juan Lagares, perhaps demonstrating he’s not just a glove, put the Mets ahead once more with a solo home run in the eighth off Tyler Clippard. But that lead also was squandered by the pen in the ninth.
Bobby Parnell said bye-bye to the win and the save with a quick single by Desmond, and after two outs, and the win still attainable, he walked Danny Espinosa, and yielded a double to Span.
Credit Jeurys Familia and John Lannan with the damage in the tenth. Familia was clipped for two singles by Jayson Werth and Jose Lobaton. Travis d’Arnaud allowed the runners to move up on a passed ball. Desmond scored Werth with a sac fly, but that would have just set up a dramatic finish when Wright launched his two-run blast in the bottom of the tenth. Instead, Lannan eliminated any theatrics when Rendon – again – popped a three-run home run off the first pitch he saw from Lannan.
Collins was, of course, optimistic after the game, despite the loss.
“This is game 1 of 162, got to remember that,” said Collins in his post-game presser. “Gotta grind it out and shut it down when we get the chance. We needed one out with two guys and couldn’t get it done.”
He was especially complimentary of Gee.
“Dillon pitched very well,” said Collins. “He kept us in it, sat down a pretty good lineup, pitched an outstanding game. He had great confidence in all his pitches. We just gotta score some runs for him.
“The second half of last year, Gee was as good as any pitcher in the National League.”
With the Opening Day extra-inning loss, the Mets still own the best winning percentage in mlb history (.642, 34-19). It was their seventh extra-inning affair on Opening Day, and they still own a winning record in those games, 5-2.
Another encouraging sign was the quantity of home runs. They say you can’t hit ‘em at the Citi, but the Mets parked three, and the Nats banged out a pair, much to the home crowd’s chagrin.
Andrew Brown hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season, the first Met to do so since Wright did so in 2010 against the Marlins.
Brown and six of his teammates were especially grateful for the opportunity to play, or be available, on Opening Day. It was the first time Brown, d’Arnaud, Lagares, Josh Satin, Zack Wheeler, Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen had made a major league Opening Day roster in their careers.
Well, the Mets did score some runs on Opening Day, had a fairly well-pitched game by the starter, and still lost. The omen is set. Last year, they won on Opening Day, and went 73-88 the rest of the way.
Mets fans are hoping the flip side of this coin comes out heads.