Mets win on Opening Day -- again
There is no telling how many of these days await the Mets this season. There is no way to know for sure whether the nearly flawless effort they put forth on Opening Day is anything more than a mirage.
But if something Amazin' is destined to unfold in Flushing this summer, it likely will look much like Monday's 11-2 thrashing of the Padres, when the Mets got production from all corners of a roster that has been mocked and scrutinized.
Jonathon Niese allowed two runs in 62/3 innings in his first Opening Day start and the revamped bullpen pieced together 21/3 scoreless innings. But the day belonged to outfielder Collin Cowgill, who bashed a grand slam in the seventh inning that turned the opener into a rout.
"It is Day 1," manager Terry Collins said. "We've got a long way to go. We know we're going to have some ups and we're going to have some downs. But the one thing we're trying to do is establish some credibility among our fans."
One smooth afternoon hardly provides enough time for such a lofty goal, but the Mets gave the announced sellout crowd of 41,053 plenty of reasons to cheer, beginning even before the first pitch.
The roars continued into the game, when the Mets knocked out overmatched Padres starter Edinson Volquez in the fourth inning. Marlon Byrd had two hits and two RBIs in his first game as a Met, and John Buck and Ruben Tejada had RBI hits. By the seventh, the Mets already appeared destined to begin the season on a high note.
Cowgill left no doubt. With two outs and the bases loaded, he lined a shot just over the fence in leftfield to make it 11-2. Unsure of whether the ball cleared the wall, the speedy and undersized Cowgill sprinted toward third base, his head down. Only when he caught a glimpse of third-base coach Tim Teufel did he learn he could jog the rest of the way.
"I got to enjoy it for about 90 feet," said Cowgill, who started on Opening Day for the first time. "I'll take it."
The Mets, desperate for outfield options during the offseason, traded a minor-leaguer to the Athletics for Cowgill. He already had failed to stick in the Diamondbacks' outfield before doing the same with the A's. His unfortunate timing even extended to his trade. He lost his cellphone the day before, leaving officials from the Mets and A's to contact him only through a close friend and Cowgill's girlfriend.
But on Monday, Cowgill's girlfriend, his father and his uncle watched from the stands as he made history in his Mets debut. Cowgill became the first Met to hit a grand slam in his first game with the franchise. No Met had hit an Opening Day grand slam since Todd Hundley in 1995.
"Collin Cowgill took the opportunity and ran with it, which is what we talked about all spring long," said Collins, who didn't name Cowgill the everyday centerfielder until the final days of camp. "And certainly, he got us off to a big start today."
Opening Day success might have little bearing on what comes next. The Mets, who at 34-18 boast the best Opening Day percentage in baseball (.654), also have known their share of hard times. But for one afternoon, even if it is fleeting, the Mets offered their fans hope.
Said Collins: "It was a great start in a lot of ways today."