On the strangest Opening Day in franchise history, the Mets delivered a taste of normalcy this afternoon at Citi Field by beginning their season, as they so often have, with a victory.
Between piped-in crowd noise, cardboard cutouts occupying some parts of the seats, and SNY’s introduction of a live K-zone in a real baseball game, the experience itself was pretty disorienting. But Jacob deGrom did what he usually does, making it look easy to get outs at the major league level. Since he had a setback during summer camp with some lower back tightness, deGrom was limited to a lower pitch count than he otherwise would have been, but he threw 72 pitches in five brilliant, scoreless innings of work. He struck out eight, walked one, and gave up just one hit.
The trendy thing to do here would be to complain about the Mets’ lack of production at the plate in a deGrom start. But Mets hitters were held scoreless through six innings by Mike Soroka, who had a 2.68 ERA last year in an excellent rookie season and got some Cy Young votes in the process. Soroka only struck out three and gave up four hits, but he was mostly in control throughout his start. J.D. Davis nearly hit a two-run home run against him in the bottom of the fifth, but Ender Inciarte made a great catch in center field, robbing Davis on a fly ball that would have clearly gone over the orange line on the outfield fence.
So with deGrom having been matched on the mound, the Mets’ bullpen—which was awful for most of last year—was handed the task of pitching at least four innings in a game that was scoreless at the time. Seth Lugo threw two scoreless innings, striking out three and getting out of a jam when Marcell Ozuna doubled with one out in the seventh and moved to third on a Wilson Ramos passed ball.
The second of Lugo’s innings set the stage for Yoenis Cespedes, who tattooed a pitch from Braves reliever Chris Martin well over the wall in left field in his first appearance in a major league game in two years. Cespedes served as the Mets’ first designated hitter in a National League game, and the home run wound up being the difference in the game.
Justin Wilson threw a scoreless eighth inning despite giving up a bloop single to Dansby Swanson to begin the inning. He got a little bit of help from Andres Giménez, who made a smooth play at second base—having entered the game as a defensive replacement to start the inning—changing course from covering the bag on a hit-and-run to retiring Johan Camargo on a chopper hit to his left. And Wilson himself finished the inning strongly, striking out Ronald Acuña Jr. to strand Swanson at second.
With the Mets’ offense not providing anything else, Edwin Diaz took over for the ninth inning, and despite giving up a very long foul ball to Freddie Freeman with one out in the inning before ultimately walking him, he got the save. He notched a couple of strikeouts in the inning, too, ending the game with a strikeout of Matt Adams, who had spent spring training and most of summer camp with the Mets before seeking and obtaining his release and signing with the Braves.
The guy the Mets had just let go came up in a big spot while playing for a division rival, and the Mets prevailed. These are, indeed, strange times.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big Mets winner: Jacob deGrom, +27.2% WPA
Big Mets loser: Pete Alonso, -10.0% WPA
Mets pitchers: +70% WPA
Mets hitters: -20% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Yoenis Cespedes hits a solo home run in the seventh, +23.3% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Dansby Swanson singles in the eighth, -8.8% WPA