DJ Stewart of the New York Mets reacts after he...

DJ Stewart of the New York Mets reacts after he was picked off first base during the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day at Citi Field on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

On Opening Day, the Mets offered a reminder about the beauty of baseball: Whatever happens, you get to try again the next day.

Their new era began with a dud Friday afternoon, a 3-1 loss to the Brewers at a sun-splashed, breezy-but-bustling Citi Field. The game featured as many Mets hits as benches-clearing episodes (one).

“The good thing is,” Pete Alonso said, “we got 161 left.”

The lone Mets hit came in the bottom of the second when Starling Marte shot a laser line drive over the leftfield wall for a lead against righthander Freddy Peralta. Milwaukee retired 19 of the next 21 Mets.

The benches-clearing excitement came in the top of the eighth after Rhys Hoskins slid hard into second base. That infuriated Jeff McNeil, who took a spike to his right lower leg and a torso to his left knee.

McNeil bounced right up, fine but furious, shouting at Hoskins. Both dugouts emptied slowly, seemingly hesitantly, and the bullpens eventually followed.

Umpires restored order quickly, even as McNeil and Hoskins continued to jaw at each other from afar. McNeil screamed a series of expletives. Hoskins made crybaby hand gestures. His slide was deemed legal after a video review.

 

“It’s a late slide,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “We didn’t like it. Jeff didn’t like it. But it’s legal. He held onto the base and it’s legal.”

McNeil said: “We’ve had a little bit of a past, so I knew there was a chance he’d be coming in like that. I didn’t like the slide. I wasn’t trying to turn a double play at all. I was just trying to catch the ball. There was no need to break it up.”

And Hoskins: “Whatever McNeil needed to get out, let him get it out. I saw it and ran off the field after that . . . He seems to be complaining when things aren’t going well, and I think that’s one of those moments . . . It’s just playing the game hard and playing the game the right way.”

Referencing “pretty questionable slides” in similar situations during Hoskins’ years with Philadelphia, McNeil explained that he couldn’t turn a double play because third baseman Brett Baty’s throw was low.

In this case, Baty’s defensive deficiencies turned out to be helpful.

“I’m actually really fortunate that Baty didn’t really hit me in the chest,” McNeil said. “If he hits me in the chest there, that’s one of the ugliest slides I’ll see. Because I’m going to try to turn it and be going toward [Hoskins].”

Francisco Lindor called it “an ugly play.”

“When it comes to Jeff’s reaction, I’m with him 100%,” Lindor said. “I will always back him up. He’s wearing orange and blue . . . We haven’t played the game like that [with hard slides into bases] in a while. MLB took that away from us. When plays like that do happen in the heat of the game, it doesn’t look good. When it comes to the reaction in the heat of the moment, it’s one of those where he’s in every right reacting the way he did.”

McNeil added: “This game is about player safety. Nobody wants to get hurt. It’s about keeping players safe.”

That sequence served as a highlight in a game without many of them for the home team.

In Mendoza’s debut as manager — and David Stearns’ as president of baseball operations — the Mets looked like what they are: an incomplete team. They lacked designated hitter J.D. Martinez, who signed late in spring training and won’t be ready to join the club for another week-plus.

They could have used him, in the seventh inning especially. Lindor worked a leadoff walk against reliever Trevor Megill, brother of Mets pitcher Tylor Megill. That brought up the meat of the Mets’ order with the potential tying run at the plate and nobody out.

Alonso popped out on the first pitch he saw. McNeil — the cleanup hitter — tried to bunt his way on base, then popped out on the third pitch he saw. Marte flied out to rightfielder Jackson Chourio, who made a jumping catch at the wall.

Mets lefthander Jose Quintana gave up two runs and six hits, including Christian Yelich’s solo home run, in 4 2⁄3 innings. Peralta finished six innings with the one run allowed, striking out eight and walking none.

“It’s not a secret,” Mendoza said. “When he’s on, he’s tough.”

The Mets will get another chance Saturday afternoon. McNeil said he hopes the Hoskins heat doesn’t carry over.

“I don’t want this to be something,” he said. “I just want to go out and play good baseball.”

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