BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)
The Mets home opener started with the unveiling of the Tom Seaver statue outside Citi Field, and a couple of hours later, the fans cheered the Mets during introductions. It ended in a Mets’ 10-3 victory over the hapless Arizona Diamondbacks, who were more than happy to play the foil on Friday.
Outside of Sean Reid-Foley’s shaky performance in the ninth inning that had the Diamondbacks score two runs off him as a result of two walks and a base hit, what was not to like about this home opener?
The game featured everything from great pitching to excellent hitting. The Mets played like a team that can make the playoffs this season. Just maybe they can even go far in the playoffs if they play in it this October.
This home opener represented a great offseason that first-year Mets general manager Billy Eppler had. He acquired Chris Bassitt when the lockout ended, and so far, the Mets home opener starter pitched to a 0.75 ERA after two starts. Starling Marte and Eduardo Escobar, his couple of free-agent signings, continue to produce at the plate.
This win explained why the Mets are 6-2. Everyone is contributing. They are playing like a well-managed team, which everyone expected under Mets manager Buck Showalter.
What the soldout crowd saw should be a glimpse of what it can be for the Mets all year if everyone is healthy. It’s no wonder why the atmosphere at Citi Field had so much energy from start to finish. Mets fans know this team can do great things this year. They know a good team when they see one. It’s a refreshing change from a doomsday attitude that infiltrated the stadium in the last final years of the Fred Wilpon era.
So many heroes participated in this win that would delight Showalter.
Bassitt made quite an impression on Mets fans on this day. He used savvy, attitude, combativeness and control against the Diamondbacks. After a shaky first inning that had Ketel Marte on base on a double and David Peralta on base via walk with one out, he got out of it by striking out Christian Walker and getting Pavin Smith to pop out. From there, it was smooth sailing from there.
He allowed one run on two hits in six innings while striking out six. That run came when he gave up a home run to Daulton Varsho in the sixth inning.
There’s no reason to doubt Bassitt since he pitched like this for the Oakland Athletics. He is one reason the Mets can be a playoff team. He joins Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill in forming an excellent starting rotation that gives the Mets a chance to win in a given game. Against the NL East that features good lineups in the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, these guys will be an integral part of the Mets’ success.
Here’s another reason to like Bassitt: He managed to pitch a month later after Brian Goodwin’s 100-mph line drive hit his face last year at Guaranteed Rate Field. Not only is he a good pitcher, but he is tough. His makeup convinced Eppler that he had to get that guy, and right now, the Mets are reaping dividends on this trade.
Marte and Escobar are the types of players Showalter loves on his teams. He likes guys that are going to grind at-bats. Both guys have done that so far, and they demonstrated it in this win. Escobar’s double scored Francisco Lindor in the seventh inning to make it a 6-1 game, and Marte hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to make it a 9-1 game. Those two guys could be invaluable in a long season and maybe in the playoffs.
This game was not just about the offseason additions. It featured guys who can bounce back this offseason, and so far so good for Robinson Cano and Lindor.
Cano will never be the player he was 10 years ago again. At 39 years old, this tends to happen at that age. But he can still contribute to the Mets. He showed that by hitting a home run to start the fourth inning that gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. He hasn’t exactly been bad so far. He has been on base often, three hits to show for it.
Cano messed up by getting suspended last year for steroid use, but he can make up for it by playing like he has done so far this season. He can still be a valuable contributor on the 25-man roster.
Then, there’s Lindor. He continued his good play by hitting two home runs (one from each side of the plate). He could have used a game like that in the home opener after an underwhelming season that had him deal with boos. It got so bad that he joined Javier Baez in doing a thumbs-down salute last year after fans cheered them on.
On this day, it was more of thumbs-up from the fans to Lindor. And yes, the Mets shortstop took it in as he embraced the moment by acknowledging the crowd. The only thing that was missing was a curtain call from him. Maybe later this year.
And last, but not least, there was Travis Jankowski, who played since Brandon Nimmo was on COVID-19 protocols. He made the most of the opportunity of his playing time in the home opener by getting three hits and making a good defensive play. His hustle and his work ethic impressed Showalter this spring training, which is why he made the roster. He could be invaluable when it comes to depth this season, especially when guys need a day off such as a day game after a night game.
Moments like the home opener is what Steve Cohen envisioned when he bought the team for $2.4 billion.
This is what Eppler and Showalter drew up after the lockout.
This is what fans envisioned this team can be.
It won’t be smooth sailing all the time in a long season, but there’s a reason to think there will be more games like this season at Citi Field and on the road.
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