This was a day New York Mets fans anticipated. The players also with much anticipation were looking forward to opening day Monday at home against the rebuilding Phillies, but something was different from previous years. There was a buzz from the record sell-out crowd at Citi Field, because this is supposed to be the year where the youngsters have developed including that promising core of starting pitching.
Jacob deGrom, the National League Rookie of the Year certainly did not disappoint. And the two runs that came home were enough because the bullpen for New York has a different but familiar look without closer Jenrry Mejia. Suspended for 80-games, for violating baseball’s joint drug prevention and treatment program, Mejia will have to once again win back the job when he returns.
In the meantime, a revamped late inning plan is in effect for manager Terry Collins. The plan worked this time when deGrom left after 6.1 innings. Collins may use the trio of Carlos Torres, the left-hander Jerry Blevins and for the moment, unless the situation changes, Jeurys Familia will get the ball and close the door.
Familia got his second save of the young season but there was some adventure when Carlos Ruiz walked leading off the ninth. The crowd, which remained in their seats had a different buzz, concern that the promise of opening day would turn sour. Then Grady Sizemore hit the double play ball, and 43,947 still in the ballpark were one out away from hopefully the first of many more wins at home.
They got their first home win of the season and there is room for many more.
“Well, we’ve been doing a lot of yapping about how this team can compete,” Collins said after the win. “And our fan base said, `OK, we’re going to come and see it.’ So today was a big step forward for us. Hope the guys enjoyed it, because we hope to fill this place again this summer, for sure.”
And this fan base, starving for wins in Flushing, can only hope that these close games will not go the wrong way from a Mets’ bullpen that has the potential to close the door. There is a realization the spring training offense that led Grapefruit League play will not carry over evidenced by 22-runs scored in the Mets first seven games.
But the fans will take that, if indeed this promising pitching staff lives up to expectations. It was deGrom getting his first win, and admitting he did not have his best stuff. Tuesday evening, Matt Harvey, the new Mets franchise player returns to the Citi Field mound after missing all of last year due to Tommy John Surgery. There will be another buzz in the ballpark and possibly another sell-out. This is what Collins and the Mets want to experience more often, capacity crowds and more wins at Citi Field.
Torres, in the seventh came in after deGrom surrendered consecutive one-out singles. He retired Cesar Hernandez on a fielder’s choice grounder helped by a good defensive play from Daniel Murphy at second and threw a fastball that got Ben Revere looking.
“Carlos came in and did a great job,” deGrom said. Torres was the right-hander that Collins went to often last season that reflected in his 92.0 innings pitched that was tops in baseball. He could be used in the seventh, or the eighth innings, possibly close a game if needed. Torres in four outings out of the pen has allowed one-hit in three innings.
“Blevins has been a tremendous job out of the bullpen getting out lefties but I do what they want me to do and I come on in and do it,” commented Torres. “Nice to see the fans coming out supporting the team especially here in New York.”
The newcomer, Michael Cuddyer who got two of the Mets six hits said, “Anytime you have 44,00 cheering for you it’s a lot of fun. You got power pitching thats the way it is going and that gets you into the postseason.”
Yes it was the bullpen that kept optimism and enthusiasm of the fans leaving the ballpark. Murphy said, “The winning is awesome…It’s fun. It’s always a nice reward to see the enthusiasm for the fans.”
And the Mets can only hope that energy continues. If not all the awards of a nice opening day win will mean nothing,
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