PHILADELPHIA — By the time the Mets took the field Tuesday, the Opening Day logo painted behind home plate was faded. The first-day jitters were gone. There was no protracted, excruciating countdown to game time. It was just a regular weeknight at Citizens Bank Park, another game in a long series of games in the proverbial marathon of a season.
That’s more like it. Under those routine circumstances, the Mets showed signs of settling into their season, beating the Phillies, 8-4, and making history in the process.
The win was the Mets’ first of the year and their first under owner Steve Cohen.
Such an occasion required commemorating. Manager Luis Rojas obtained the baseball from the final out, when centerfielder Albert Almora Jr. corralled a fly ball from Didi Gregorius, and said the Mets will present it to Cohen before the home opener Thursday.
"This is his first win as our owner, first of many to come," Rojas said. "You always remember that first win for sure, so we’re taking it to Citi Field to give to him."
Dominic Smith added: "The buzz and excitement started at the early part of spring training, and it all revolves around him . . . He shows us on an everyday basis that he wants to help us get better as a team, as an organization, as a club. As a player, all you can do is want to run through a wall for him."
Among the other firsts: The loss was the Phillies’ first, after they started the season with a four-game winning streak. During a four-run rally in the seventh, Francisco Lindor picked up his first RBI with the Mets, on a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
And Smith, playing in his first game of the year after being benched for the opener, hit the Mets’ first home run, a two-run shot to leftfield in the fourth inning against Chase Anderson (five innings, two runs). Pete Alonso added his first long ball in the ninth.
"That moment was extremely invigorating for us, and that momentum carried through the rest of the game," Alonso said of Smith’s homer. "You’re going to see a lot more of that from Dommo."
That provided the Mets’ bullpen with much-needed wiggle room, though the relievers still made it interesting — and stressful. Miguel Castro, Trevor May and Jeurys Familia combined for three innings, seven hits and three runs.
The Phillies outhit the Mets, 10-5.
"See, that was easy," Cohen, who is not attending the series, tweeted minutes after the game ended.
Pitching in a game that mattered for the first time in a year and a half, Marcus Stroman showed no signs of rust. He held the Phillies to one run and three hits in six innings.
Of his 18 outs, 13 came on ground balls (two via diving assists by Alonso at first base).
"Whenever I’ve been good in my career, that’s been my forte," Stroman said. "I’ve never been someone who necessarily prides myself on strikeouts. If I can get the guy to put the ball in play weakly, then that’s usually the route I’ll go."
That was Stroman’s first regular-season appearance since September 2019. He opted out of last season, citing coronavirus concerns, but returned this year because he said MLB’s pandemic protocols seemed safe.
Being back on the mound, Stroman said, felt "pretty normal." Smith said the Mets were happy to have him.
"His energy, his presence and the way he can pitch is just going to elevate this team," he said. "I’m glad to have him, glad to see what he can do tonight. That’s something that we’re going to see all year."
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