When Justin Verlander’s strained teres major was announced just a few hours before first pitch, the air was effectively let out of an entire fanbase. Thankfully, the team itself was able to put the injury behind them, as they continued their historic success on Opening Day with a 5-3 victory over the Marlins in Miami.
Early on, Max Scherzer was simply electric who, after giving up an opposite-field single to Luis Arraez, the first batter he faced, dug in and reminded folks that the Mets may not have lost their best pitcher to either free agency or injury. When Jean Segura hit the ball back towards Scherzer, Max knocked it down and initiated a double play.
The Mets got on the board in the top of the third inning against the reigning Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. Daniel Vogelbach walked on four pitches to start the inning. With one out, new Met Omar Narvaez stroked a single to right field, with Vogelbach going first to third. Brandon Nimmo then floated a fly ball to mid-left field, and Vogelbach - perhaps emboldened by his stolen base commercial with Buck Showalter - tagged up and scored without a slide. Narvaez got caught in a rundown that the SNY cameras somehow totally missed to end the inning.
Scherzer wouldn’t allow another baserunner until the fourth inning, when Jean Segura drew a one-out walk. Much like in the first, the runner was erased on a double play, keeping Scherzer facing the minimum through four. Both double plays were started gorgeously by Francisco Lindor, who looked smooth as silk on two difficult plays.
The sixth inning was the first time Alcantara looked vulnerable. He started off with a four-pitch walk to Nimmo, who went first to third on a Starling Marte single. Jazz Chisholm Jr. - in his first regular season game in center field - threw errantly to third, allowing Marte to get to second base on the error, putting two on with no one out. Lindor hit a towering fly ball to center, scoring Nimmo on a sacrifice fly. After a walk to Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil found a hole on the left-side of the infield for a base hit, sending Marte home and Alonso to third.
That would be the end of Alcantara’s day.
After looking human in the fifth, Scherzer was greeted by Jacob Stallings in the sixth with a double, the first real blemish on Schezer’s day. After a foul pop out, Arraez blooped a ball to right that Marte took a bad route too, and it turned into an RBI-double. Two batters later, Garret Cooper hit a laser beam over the right-center field wall to tie the game at 3. Scherzer struck out Chisholm to end the inning.
With one out in the seventh and left-handed Tanner Scott on the mound, Eduardo Escobar singled to left, putting the go-ahead run on base. After a walk to Narvaez, Nimmo laced a base hit that got by Chisholm, leading to two runs to score and Nimmo to go to second, putting the Mets on top, 5-3.
Drew Smith entered the game in the seventh, and was greeted by a Jorge Soler double that split the outfielders. However, Smith buckled down and stranded Soler on second, ending the day with a strikeout to Stallings.
With Huascar Brazoban pitching, the eighth inning began with McNeil laying down a bunt with the third baseball back and shifted towards second, and he reached first easily. The first Mark Canha hit by pitch of the season followed, and two were on with no outs. A Tommy Pham strikeout followed and, despite a wild pitch by Brazoban pushed the runners to second and third, Escobar waved at a cutter to end the inning.
Brooks Raley was next in for the Mets, and was impressive in his one inning of work, striking out two and inducing a ground ball from Segura to end the inning. Brazoban got in and out of trouble in the eighth, but finished the game with two scoreless innings.
Veteran David Robertson, the de facto closer in the wake of Edwin Diaz’s injury, got his first chance in that role against the meat of the Marlins lineup. Aside from a scary foul ball off the bat of Cooper, Robertson looked strong, striking out two, and securing the win for his new club.
In the first regular season game with the pitch clock, there was more attention paid to it, both on the broadcast and on the field, than is likely to be seen in your average game. The shift ‘ban’ only had minimal impact, and the sole stolen base didn’t seem to be affected by the larger bases.
The Mets and Marlins will continue their series tomorrow night in Miami, with David Peterson facing Jesús Luzardo.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winner: Brandon Nimmo, +27.7% WPA
Big loser: None!
Total pitcher WPA: +17.6% WPA
Total batter WPA: +32.4% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Brandon Nimmo’s two-run double, +28.1% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Garrett Cooper’s 2-run home run, -30.2% WPA