First, we had to endure the painful saga surrounding the potential for a new owner to finally put the Wilpon era behind us. Will it be Steve Cohen or will it be A-Rod and company? Then we suffered through Trevor Bauer and his Twitter feed. Will he come to Queens or head west? We followed that up with the nail-biting and debate about Lindor. Will he sign or won’t he?
When all was done and dusted, we had a lot to look forward to. Cohen won the owner sweepstakes, leaving us with an actual fan who was willing to spend money to improve the product. He proved that by bringing Francisco Lindor in (among others) and extending him with a 10 year, $341 million dollar contract. We lost out on Bauer, but hey – two out of three ain’t bad. Given all of that, the Flushing Faithful were chomping at the bit as the 2021 season approached. Things were looking up, and hope sprung eternal. Then the calendar turned to April.
Opening Day, or not?
Anticipation surrounding this team was so high that MLB scheduled the season opener in the prime time slot, to be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Then the Washington Nationals had to go and blow that plan out of the water by having a COVID outbreak. We’re a year into this thing – HAVEN’T WE LEARNED BY NOW? (Of course, that’s a whole different conversation, but I digress).
Instead of settling in on Thursday night to watch the Mets take on the Nationals, I continued binge-watching “Lovecraft Country” with my wife on HBO (great show, btw). I would have to wait until Saturday since the Friday game was postponed as well. Of course, eventually, the entire weekend was thrown out the window as a result of COVID, so I had to settle for watching other games involving other teams that I wasn’t nearly as excited about.
It’s Here – At Last
After an interminably long weekend, it was finally time to watch the Mets begin their season. The new era of Mets baseball was here. Instead of the Nationals (whose series opener with Atlanta was also postponed because of COVID), we’d be facing the Philadelphia Phillies. They had just swept those Braves over the opening weekend. Jacob deGrom would toe the rubber against journeyman Matt Moore, who spent last season pitching in Japan. I turned on the SNY broadcast brimming with confidence. After all, the Mets are one of the best in the league in season openers. What could go wrong?
For all of the anticipation about the changes in this organization coming into this season, some things never change. The 9 innings were a roller coaster of joy, frustration, disappointment, and stress. It all came to a soul crushing end when Pete Alonso put a charge into one that fell just short of leaving the yard. The Mets wound up losing by a 5-3 score and were left wondering what could have been.
Some things that I take away from this game:
- Jacob deGrom was his usual self: His stat line was 6 IP, 3 H, 7 K, 2 BB, 77 pitches. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the opening series, it ended up being 10 days since he’d faced batters in a game situation. As a result of the extended layoff, Luis Rojas and the staff were extra wary of his pitch count. Throughout his outing, he was lighting up the radar gun. Of his 77 pitches, 11 of them were clocked at 100 or higher. He wasn’t quite as sharp as we’ve come to expect. Still, he managed to keep Philly guessing for the most part.
- Defense was the mindset from the outset: Rojas opted for Kevin Pillar instead of Dom Smith. It was a clear indication that he wanted to have the best defensive lineup on the field. It proved prophetic in the bottom of the 1st. Pillar took a ball off the wall and nailed a relay throw to Jeff McNeil, who turned and pegged J.D. Davis’ glove to throw out Rhys Hoskins as he tried to stretch a double into a triple in the bottom of the 1st. They also turned a nifty double play in the 2nd – started by Lindor on a ground ball up the middle.
- The curveball from the weekend didn’t help: The team was clearly showing some rust as a result of the uncertainty created by the COVID situation in Washington. The Phillies had already built some momentum over the weekend by sweeping the Braves. It manifested in the 8th inning when the Phillies put up 5 runs on the bullpen.
There are 161 To Go
I had to take a breath and remind myself that this was only the first game of the season. There were definitely remnants of the “old” Mets. For the 31st time in a Jacob deGrom start, the bullpen blew a win for him. Of course, the offense didn’t do much to help his cause either. They only put up 2 runs for him (one of which he had to drive in himself). The bullpen didn’t get off to a great start, either. Watching Luis Guillorme make an errant throw home was the final dagger. In a night that started with such promise, it ended with heartbreak. It’s a pattern I’ve become all too familiar with as a Mets fan.
Still – for all of the agita I’ve come to expect from this team, there is abundant optimism in 2021. This team is capable of great things and I’m still confident that over the coming months, they’ll prove that. Tomorrow is another day.
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