Opening Day is practically a holiday, but there has always been something special about the second game of the season. Winter-weary baseball fans need baseball at this time of year, and game twos are proof that baseball is here to stay. Still, it’s all the easier enjoy the early days of a season once your team—like our Mets—has its first win under its belt; and that our Florida son Jacob deGrom was making his season debut today gave extra cause for happiness.
Dexter Fowler was first up for the Cardinals, and his at bat was, in retrospect, something of a microcosm of what deGrom’s day became: Fowler struck out, but it took more work from deGrom—nine pitches and a full count—than anyone Mets-affiliated would have preferred. A Tommy Pham strikeout and a Matt Carpenter ground out later, and it was the Mets’ turn at bat.
Opening Day cleanup hitter Asdrubal Cabrera hit leadoff today and promptly doubled down the line off Cardinals starter Michael Wacha. Yoenis Cespedes drew a walk, and as Jay Bruce came up it finally clicked for me that the Mets might have themselves a decent offense this year. I felt a little thrill at the thought, and though Bruce’s force-out grounder to third dampened my spirits a bit, Todd Frazier promptly ripped a double down the left-field line that plated both Cespedes and Bruce and had Citi Field cheering and hollering at the early 2-0 lead.
The game breezed along for the next few innings, with the most noteworthy event being an Amed Rosario walk in the second. Such an uneventful state of affairs generally does not last in baseball, though, and the Cardinals took advantage of deGrom’s relative lack of sharpness with some small-ball fussy business in the fourth that yielded a run. That Yadier Molina, whom no Mets pitcher has retired since at least 2006, collected a stupid sexy base hit after that run scored did nothing to keep the anxiety at bay. There were two outs, but deGrom had thrown approximately five thousand pitches in the inning; and as new pitching coach Dave Eiland took a trip to the mound you wondered about the extent to which the wheels were going to come off. Such treasonous thoughts are, perhaps, understandable at times; however, our lad put them to rest by coaxing Paul Dejong into an inning-ending pop-out to Adrian Gonzalez.
The Mets took back their two-run lead in the bottom of the frame thanks to Travis d’Arnaud, who hit a line drive solo home run to left field—his first hit, and his and the Mets’ first home run, of the season. A couple batters later, Jacob deGrom collected his own first base hit of the season—this one a single to center field—but after Rosario grounded out behind him, one wondered how much longer deGrom would be able to stay in the game.
Mets fans were promptly treated to a phenomenon that deGrom has unfurled many times before—something, not so incidentally, that only the really good pitchers can do: He pulled his shit together and pitched a clean seven-pitch fifth inning. Quick innings are always impressive, but deGrom’s seemingly preternatural ability to fight through those outings in which his command is off is something else entirely. May we all remember to appreciate it when we see it, because it is rare indeed.
As if emboldened by their dudely dude’s heroics, the rest of the team pressed their attack throughout the rest of the game and didn’t really let up in any meaningful way until the win was secure. Notably, Yoenis Cespedes sent a hanging breaking ball from Wacha over the Great Wall of Flushing in the bottom of the fifth for his own inaugural homer of the 2018 season. When Mickey Callaway, who is definitely the most handsome manager in Major League Baseball, finally lifted deGrom with two outs in the top of the sixth, one felt reasonably certain the Mets were going to win this one. As if to drive the point home, Robert Gsellman pitched his way back from a 3-1 count to strike the hell out of Jose Martinez and end the inning.
Later in the game, the Mets were able to capitalize on a couple of Cardinals miscues—one from the players, one from Cardinals manager Mike Matheny—to add two more runs to their total. The former play was a truly weird one to behold: In the bottom of the 7th with one out and Cespedes on second and Cabrera on third, Todd Frazier hit a popup to left field that, disappointingly, appeared shallow enough to prevent Cabrera from tagging up. Suddenly, though, center fielder Tommy Pham came racing over into left field, stepped in front of Ozuna, caught the ball with unsure footing, and fired off a bad throw home that allowed Cabrera to score easily and Cespedes to make it to third without issue. (There was speculation in the booth that Ozuna may be nursing an arm injury.)
Jeurys Familia was called in for the four-out save on account of an apparent oblique injury to Anthony Swarzak. Though shaky at times and, like his teammate deGrom, obliged to throw more pitches than anyone of the blue-and-orange persuasion would have preferred, he managed to complete the task and secure the 6-2 win for the Mets.
The win gave the Mets the following things, all of which are pretty cool: a 2-0 record to start the year; a series win; and the chance to secure a series sweep.
It’s good to have baseball back.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
[FANGRAPHS WPA IMAGE]
Big winners: Todd Frazier, 19.8% WPA Jacob deGrom, +17.1% WPA, Anthony Swarzak, +12.5% WPA, Yoenis Cespedes, +10.2% WPA
Big losers: Why not Zoidberg?
Teh aw3s0mest play: Travis d’Arnaud’s solo homer in the fourth inning
Teh sux0rest play: Jose Martinez’s RBI single in the top of the fourth
Total pitcher WPA: +26.0% WPA
Total batter WPA: +24.0% WPA
GWRBI!: Todd Frazier