Mets Opening Days: 2000-2007

The Mets will hold a press conference tomorrow at 1:15pm to introduce Johan Santana at Shea. Eight days later, their new ace will report to Port St. Lucie for spring training. Forty-five days after that, Santana is likely to take the mound for the first time as the Mets open their 2008 season in Florida against the Marlins in front of scores and scores of people. It will be a landmark day for the franchise, and to prepare for it I thought it'd be fun to look back at the Mets' previous Opening Days. I don't know if this will become a series or just a one-off, but today I'm going to take a look at the first games of the oughts.

Year: 2000
Starting Pitcher: Mike Hampton
Opponent: Cubs
Result: L, 5-3

Technically a home game, the Mets opened the season in 2000 with a two-game series with the Cubs at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. I was a senior in college and I distinctly remember setting my alarm to wake up at 5am or some ungodly hour to watch the game on TV. Adding to the drama was the Met debut of Mike Hampton, acquired along with Derek "Operation Shutdown" Bell the previous offseason in exchange for Octavio Dotel and Roger Cedeno.

Hampton's first start for the Mets began inauspiciously to say the least. In five innings of work, Hampton walked nine batters and hit a tenth, though he benefited from four groundball double-plays that enabled him to hold the Cubs to just two runs. His bullpen did him no favors, as Dennis Cook and Rich Rodriguez combined to allow three runs in the seventh and eighth, sealing the Mets' fate to a 5-3 loss.

Year: 2001
Starting Pitcher: Al Leiter
Opponent: Braves
Result: W, 6-4

Mike Piazza got the Mets on the board early with a two-run homerun in the top of the first inning. The Braves scraped together a run of their own with three singles in the bottom of the inning off of Al Leiter. The teams traded zeros until the bottom of the seventh when Met-killer Javy Lopez tied the game at two with a solo shot. Robin Ventura put the Mets back on top with a two-run blast against John Rocker in the top of the eighth, but John Franco and Turk Wendell combined to give the lead right back in the bottom of the eighth.

Dennis Cook held the fort in the ninth and set the stage for Ventura's second homerun of the game -- another two-run shot -- to put the Mets ahead 6-4 in the tenth. Armando Benitez came on and pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the tenth to lock up the Met victory.

Year: 2002
Starting Pitcher: Al Leiter
Opponent: Pirates
Result: W, 6-2

Al Leiter squared off against Englewood, New Jersey's own Ron Villone. Leiter tossed a gem, allowing just four hits, a walk and a run over six innings. The Mets scored four runs against Villone and another two against reliever Sean Lowe to take a 6-1 lead into the ninth. The Pirates picked up a ninth-inning run against Armando Benitez on a walk, defensive indifference, a groundout and a sac fly. The Mets held on for the 6-2 win, the first of only 75 they would collect that season.

Year: 2003
Starting Pitcher: Tom Glavine
Opponent: Cubs
Result: L, 15-2

Big free agent acquisition Tom Glavine managed to out-suck Mike Hampton in their unspoken battle of Met debuts. On a chilly April day at Shea, Glavine allowed five runs on eight hits and four walks in just 3.2 innings of work, leaving his Met ERA at 12.27. Not to be outdone, Mike Bacsik allowed nine runs on four hits and five walks in two innings of relief, winning the battle for suck-premacy with his 40.50 ERA. Corey Patterson hit two homeruns and drove in seven for the Cubs as they embarrassed the Mets in front of 53,586 at Shea Stadium.

Year: 2004
Starting Pitcher: Tom Glavine
Opponent: Braves
Result: W, 7-2

The Mets roughed up Russ Ortiz for six runs -- three earned -- in just 2.1 innings. Kaz Matsui made his US debut by belting a homerun in his first big league at-bat. He added two doubles later in the game and finished with three RBIs, giving Tom Glavine all the runs he needed. Glavine went six strong innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and a couple of walks. David Weathers and Braden Looper pitched the final three innings to complete the 7-2 victory.

Year: 2005
Starting Pitcher: Pedro Martinez
Opponent: Reds
Result: L, 7-6

Making his Met debut after signing a franchise-altering free agent deal the prior December, Pedro Martinez dominated the Reds through six innings, striking out twelve and allowing just three runs on three hits and a couple of walks. Kaz Matsui hit his second straight homerun to lead off a season for the Mets, and Carlos Beltran hit his first homerun as a Met to power the Mets to a 6-4 ninth-inning lead.

The lead didn't last long, as Braden Looper came on in the bottom of the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Austin Kearns. Adam Dunn strode to the plate and hit a two-run bomb to center to knot the game at six. Joe Randa, aka Smiley McFuckface, followed with a game-winning solo shot to put the Mets out of their misery and send them off on a six-game losing streak to begin the season.

Year: 2006
Starting Pitcher: Tom Glavine
Opponent: Nationals
Result: W, 3-2

Another strong opening day start for Tom Glavine, as he allowed six hits and one run over six innings, striking out five and walking three. The Mets scored single runs on a Paul Lo Duca single in the third, an Xavier Nady double in the fourth and a David Wright solo homerun to lead off the sixth. Aaron Heilman allowed a run in a couple of innings of relief and Billy Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth that ended when Jose Vidro was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

Year: 2007
Starting Pitcher: Tom Glavine
Opponent: Cardinals
Result: W, 6-1

Exacting some tiny bit of revenge for their ousting in the 2006 NLCS, the Mets and Tom Glavine shut down the Cardinals in the first game of the 2007 season. Glavine tossed six innings of six-hit ball, surrendering one run while striking out two. The Mets beat up Chris Carpenter, scoring five runs on nine hits over six innings. Four relievers -- Pedro Feliciano, Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner -- combined to keep the Cardinals off the board for the final three innings to secure the 6-1 win for the Mets.

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