If Opening Day was a dream for the Mets, Day Two was a nightmare — with distinct 2019 and 2020 vibes in a 5-3, extra-inning loss to the Braves.
First came the 2019: Edwin Diaz, who blew seven saves in his disaster of a season last year, did it again Saturday. With the Mets one strike away from winning in the ninth inning, Marcell Ozuna homered to tie it.
Diaz put a 98-mph fastball exactly where he wanted — on the outer edge of the strike zone — and Ozuna, a pull hitter, blasted it to the opposite field.
It was the same pitch in the same location that he threw to the same batter in he same one-run, ninth-inning situation Friday.Diaz wanted to catch him looking again. But Ozuna smartened up.
Diaz’s immediate reaction was to smile.
“I can’t do anything but laugh when I do everything I want to do and still something happens,” Diaz said through an interpreter.
Manager Luis Rojas wouldn’t commit to using Diaz in the Mets’ next save situation. But he also had never committed to him as the full-time closer, either, though Diaz has gotten both of the first two opportunities.
Then came the 2020: In the top of the 10th, the Braves started with a runner — Adam Duvall, who made the final out of the previous inning — on second base, a new rule in this pandemic-shortened season. Hunter Strickland, making his Mets debut after signing a minor-league contract last month, allowed three runs (two earned) in one-third of an inning.
MLB added the runner-on-second rule because it doesn’t want games to linger and, well, this time it worked.
“I mean, we saw it. The game ended there in the 10th. It didn’t go any longer,” Rojas said. “We know that that’s one of the reasons we’re having it this season, with everything around this type of season.”
The Mets received the same benefit in the bottom of the 10th but fell short after putting the potential tying run on first base with nobody out.
With a portion of the original lineup subbed out, Jake Marisnick (infield single) batted for J.D. Davis, Eduardo Nunez (flyout) batted for Yoenis Cespedes and Dominic Smith (sacrifice fly) batted for Robinson Cano. Wilson Ramos grounded out to end it.
Most of the game was good for the Mets, with lots of similarities to the opener — a strong starting pitcher effort, good bullpen work and just enough offense.
Steven Matz cruised through six innings of one-run ball, allowing two hits and one walk and striking out seven. His only bit of trouble came in the second, when Duvall homered to rightfield. He faced just one more than the minimum number of batters the rest of his outing.
Matz said he was pleased to be able to keep his changeup down in the zone. He leaned heavily on that pitch and less on the slow curveball that the Mets talked up throughout camp.
“The changeup was such a good pitch today,” Rojas said. “He threw the ball so well. Under control, just a good mix, good sequence. He paired up really well with Wilson [Ramos]. Wilson has done a good job calling games for us.”
Jeurys Familia tossed a perfect seventh on nine pitches. But in Dellin Betances’ two-thirds of an inning — his Mets debut — his fastball maxed out at 94.8 mph and averaged just below 94 mph. His four-seamer in years past averaged around 98.