|Johan Santana made his first major league start for the Mets since September 2010. (NYTimes.com)|
David Wright's RBI single in the 6th inning was all the offense Johan Santana and company, as the Mets' ace and four relievers combined to blank the Braves, 1-0, to kick off the team's 50th Anniversary season.
The Good Stuff:
- He won't get it on the stat sheet, but Johan Santana deserves as much credit for this win as anyone. In his first game in 573 days, the 2-time Cy Young winner pitched 5 scoreless innings on 84 pitches, giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, and striking out 5. He got himself into trouble in the 5th, allowing a double and walking the bases loaded, but in true Johan fashion he buckled down and got to the dugout unscathed.
- Anyone who spent last year away from planet Earth and lost track of baseball wouldn't have noticed anything different about Santana: he looked darn near close to the superstar the Amazin's picked up in free agency in 2008. He baffled the Braves out there, at one point retiring 12 Atlanta hitters in a row. He ran out of steam and began missing the plate in the 5th frame, but you can attribute that to the long layoff from regular season action. He'll build up his stamina as the year progresses, but the most important thing right now is that Johan Santana just started Opening Day for the Mets in 2012.
- Not too much in the way of offense today; it was a good, old-fashioned pitchers' duel. New York did break through in the 6th: Andres Torres led off with a walk and went to third on Daniel Murphy's single. Then David Wright, now the definitive face of the franchise, laced a single into left to give his team the lead and eventually the win.
- Wright finished the day 2-3 and walked once. Daniel Murphy and Josh Thole also had good days at the plate, picking up 2 hits apiece.
- With a unit that ranked 28th in baseball last year, Sandy Alderson had to use the limited resources he had this offseason to shore up a creaky bullpen. So far, it's paying dividends. Ramon Ramirez picked up the win after Santana's departure, and he, Tim Byrdak, Jon Rauch, and new closer Frank Francisco combining for 4 innings of shutout ball in relief, with Francisco slamming the door on Jason Heyward in the 9th inning to seal the deal and send 42,080 Met fans home happy.
- But before festivities began on the field, the team paid tribute to a fallen icon with a moving ceremony honoring the late Gary Carter. The team will wear black "KID 8" patches on their sleeves the whole season, and a larger version of the patch was revealed on the new left field wall before the game, right next to the 50th Anniversary emblem. The Mets also kept Carter's #8 jersey in the dugout throughout the game. The Kid may be gone, but his spirit will live on in this New York team.
- It appears not even the festive atmosphere of Opening Day could keep the injury bug away from the orange and blue. New centerfielder and leadoff man Andres Torres came up lame in the 7th chasing after a Tyler Pastornicky triple and was promptly replaced with Scott Hairston. He was diagnosed with a left calf strain, and a DL stint looks probable. Now one weakness the Mets have to deal with this year is a lack speed. It was no problem last year with Reyes and Beltran, but both those guys are gone. Torres was supposed to make up for some of that lost speed, but now that he's gone there is a real lack of basestealing ability for the NY 9. It also means Ruben Tejada, who was supposed to hit 8th this season, will become a 22-year-old leadoff man in the biggest city in baseball. Remember when I said we'll be watching Tejada grow up this season? He's gonna need a heck of a growth spurt.
- They didn't need it today, but a lack of offense and missed opportunities plagued the Mets this afternoon. The team hit 1-9 with RISP and left 8 men on base. What stands out the most is the combined numbers of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda: the two lefty sluggers combined to go 0-8 with 4 Ks and strand 11 Mets.
You won't find many better ways to start your golden anniversary season. Great pitching and clutch hitting from their biggest star allowed the Mets to start the 2012 campaign the way they have 33 times in the last 43 seasons: with a capital W and a 1-0 record. Now THAT'S Opening Day like it oughtta be!