Jose Butto of the Mets pitches against the Royals at Citi...

Jose Butto of the Mets pitches against the Royals at Citi Field on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets honored the man fans called “Dr. K” before Sunday’s game at Citi Field, retiring Dwight Gooden’s No. 16.

Then the 2024 Mets took the field and honored him in their own way, and a most appropriate one.

Led by a strong start from Jose Butto, the Mets struck out 14 Royals en route to a 2-1 victory, a Gooden-style pitchers’ duel that was something out of the 1980s.

Butto is no Gooden, of course.

But after a second quality start this season, allowing two hits and striking out nine Royals in six innings, he might be here to stay after failing to make the starting rotation out of spring training.

“He can pitch,” manager Carlos Mendoza said.

Asked about Butto getting more chances, Mendoza said: “Yeah, he’s going to get another opportunity. He’s not going anywhere.”


Butto allowed one run in six innings in the second game of a doubleheader on April 4, was sent back to Triple-A Syracuse, then was back in New York on Sunday.

Asked about his confidence level, he said: “Good. I’ve got a lot of confidence now. I just continue to keep working, improving every day. I feel really good.”

Despite Butto’s excellence, the game was scoreless into the bottom of the eighth after the Mets failed to capitalize on several good scoring chances.

Royals starter Cole Ragans had been nearly as good as Butto, allowing five hits in six innings and striking out eight. But the Mets finally broke through in the eighth after Chris Stratton walked the bases loaded.

With two outs, Mendoza stuck with No. 9 hitter Harrison Bader against Stratton, a righty, rather than going to lefty DJ Stewart off the bench.

It worked. Bader topped a dribbler toward third baseman Maikel Garcia, who was unable to make a play on Bader, allowing Pete Alonso to score.

Brandon Nimmo followed with a run-scoring walk to make it 2-0, which proved crucial when Edwin Diaz allowed a two-out home run by Vinnie Pasquantino in the ninth.

“I went with it and we got the result,” Mendoza said of sticking with Bader. “Not all the time you’re going to come through, but it was good to see him put in play a tough pitch.”

Bader joked that he initially thought the ball was going to hit the outfield wall.

But seriously, he said his approach was to “think smaller” and just try to put the ball in play.

“That was just a fortunate play,” he said. “I think we create our own luck in this field and in this game. So that one worked out for us, and I’m very happy it did.”

The Mets (7-8) are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have won their last three series.

Butto’s nine strikeouts were a career high, starting with striking out the side in the first inning, with his changeup on point from the beginning.

Adam Ottavino and Brooks Raley added two strikeouts each and Diaz had one.

The Royals fell to 10-6 before a crowd of 32,749 on what was a warm, sunny day other than during the Gooden ceremony, which took place in rain and wind.

“What a great moment; what a great feeling,” Mendoza said of the Gooden event. “It was something special, and something that we’ll never forget.”

Francisco Lindor, who was batting .102 after his first at-bat, had two hits in a row but had a foul pop-out to first base with the bases loaded in the seventh.

The Mets nearly scored in the fourth inning when Tyrone Taylor smoked a long, hard line drive to leftfield. MJ Melendez caught the ball, then made an excellent throw to the plate to get Starling Marte, who tagged up at third base, for the inning-ending double play.

Asked how it felt coming through on the mound on the day Gooden was honored, Butto said, “Really good.”

Somewhere at Citi Field, Gooden likely was smiling, and surely could relate.

Notes & quotes: Mendoza said he spoke to J.D. Martinez on Sunday and that the recently signed Met will begin swinging a bat on Monday, but not against live pitching. “He’s moving in the right direction,” Mendoza said. “It’s going to take a few days, obviously.”


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