Even on Opening Day, Bartolo Colon looked calmer on the mound than Mets fans probably were in their seats. Not too long ago, the Mets were criticized in some corners for choosing to begin the season with the unflappable 41-year-old, especially once the Nationals made it official that Max Scherzer—their new ace signed for big bucks in the offseason—would get the nod in the game. But coming off a season in which his ERA was high but his peripherals suggested his results should have been a bit better, Colon started his eighteenth season in Major League Baseball with a gem.
The final line for Colon looks great: six innings, eight strikeouts, one walk, and just one run allowed. Somehow his outing seemed even better than that. The one run came on a Bryce Harper home run leading off the sixth inning, and Colon won’t be the only pitcher to serve up one of those this year. In a couple of higher-pressure situations that bookended his outing, though, Colon was fantastic.
With two on and nobody out in the first, he struck out Harper and Ryan Zimmerman before inducing an inning-ending ground out. And in the sixth, he allowed a two-out single and walk but struck out Mets killer Wilson Ramos to end the inning.
Scherzer was nothing to sneeze at, of course. For a while there, it looked like he might very well no-hit the Mets. On the two occasions that he got into trouble, it came mostly at the hands of Ian Desmond, who made a pair of costly errors.
In the sixth, the Mets were still hitless when Scherzer walked Curtis Granderson. Scherzer got David Wright to hit a high, shallow fly ball to right-center. Desmond botched it, and although it seemed like Granderson might have had a shot to score on the play, the Mets had runners on second and third for Lucas Duda, who singled to bring both baserunners home. And in the seventh, Juan Lagares reached on a throwing error by Desmond before Travis d’Arnaud hit a triple—which almost cleared the wall deep in center field—to score him.
So the pitching matchup that struck fear in many Mets fans turned out just fine. Sure, the Nationals were down three starting position players, but Colon’s outing was a pretty encouraging way to start the year. If he can even be a league-average, or slightly better, pitcher this year, the back end of the Mets’ rotation should look pretty good.
Once Colon had left the game, the Mets’ bullpen was very good, too. Carlos Torres fittingly made the first relief appearance of the season and threw a scoreless seventh inning. Jeurys Familia looked almost unhittable in his scoreless eighth.
Photo: H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
There was a bit of a problem as the ninth inning began, though. As the inning began, Jerry Blevins took the mound for the Mets, which might have seemed like a reasonable thing to do with Bryce Harper leading off the inning. But we learned shortly thereafter that Jenrry Mejia felt soreness in his elbow while warming up and told the Mets about it. Without him, Blevins retired Harper, and Buddy Carlyle—who had zero career saves coming into the game—came on and retired the only two batters he faced to finish off the win. The game ended on a ground ball to Wilmer Flores, which feels pretty appropriate given all the attention Wilmer Flores playing shortstop got all winter.
All in all, it was a good Opening Day for the Mets. Over the last couple of years, they have really struggled against the Nationals, and getting a win in the first of their many games against one another is basically the ideal way to start the season. On Wednesday night, Jacob deGrom takes the mound for his first start after his Rookie of the Year campaign last year. On Thursday afternoon, Matt Harvey makes his long-awaited return after missing all of last season. There are one-hundred-sixty-one games to go, but it feels like the first series might go well.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Lucas Duda, +26.8% WPA, Bartolo Colon, +17.5% WPA, Travis d’Arnaud, +14.1% WPA
Big losers: Wilmer Flores, -10.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Lucas Duda’s two-run single in the sixth, +30.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Bryce Harper’s home run, -14.0% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +40.2% WPA
Total batter WPA: +9.8% WPA
GWRBI!: El Dudarino