Mets 11, Padres 2
Nothing about the New York Mets on Monday resembled the second
half of last season.
Then again, opening day has often been their biggest highlight
of the year.
Jonathon Niese stepped nicely into his new role as No. 1 starter
and Collin Cowgill’s grand slam capped a splashy New York debut in
an 11-2 rout of the San Diego Padres.
”What a great day,” Cowgill said. ”We’re looking forward to
keeping this going.”
Handed the opening day assignment in place of injured Johan
Santana, Niese enjoyed a big afternoon with both his arm and bat.
He breezed into the seventh inning against a Padres lineup missing
slugger Chase Headley to a broken thumb and catcher Yasmani Grandal
to a testosterone suspension.
”The adrenaline was pumping, I’m not going to lie,” Niese
said. ”As far as the anxiety, it really wasn’t much.”
Marlon Byrd had a pair of RBI singles and fellow Mets newcomer
John Buck was in the middle of three rallies as New York improved
baseball’s best opening day record to 34-18 (.654) despite dropping
its first eight openers.
The Mets have won 20 of their last 22 season openers at
”So far, so good,” a smiling David Wright said. ”It was good
to kind of bust out offensively and get some breathing room for
Niese had a perfect day at the plate himself, tying his career
high with two hits. He had an RBI single in the second off an
ineffective Edinson Volquez (0-1), then drew a leadoff walk and
scored in a three-run fourth.
New York scored nine runs with two outs and went 7 for 14 with
runners in scoring position after batting .246 in those situations
last season, 20th in the majors. The three new additions to the
lineup – Cowgill, Byrd and Buck – were a combined 6 for 14 with
seven RBIs and five runs.
They provided a welcome change for a team that got off to an
encouraging start last year before going 28-48 after the All-Star
break in its fourth straight losing season (74-88).
”If I was going to draw it up, this would be about what it
looks like and feels like,” Buck said about his Mets debut. ”It
definitely helped me settle in a little easier.”
With the Yankees hosting the rival Boston Red Sox across town,
the Mets announced a sellout crowd of 41,053 at windy Citi Field,
where the Padres won the ballpark’s first game in 2009. The last
time two New York teams opened at home on the same day was April
17, 1956, when it was the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers,
according to STATS.
Wright received a warm ovation when he was introduced as the
fourth Mets captain since their inception in 1962. He stole two
bases and made a diving play at third base in his first game since
signing a $138 million, eight-year contract – the richest in team
Byrd and Buck each had an RBI single in the third. Cowgill
doubled to key the fourth inning, which included a run-scoring
groundout by Wright and an RBI single by Daniel Murphy on his 28th
Volquez, making his third consecutive opening day start, helped
the Dominican Republic win the World Baseball Classic last month.
But he lasted only three-plus innings Monday and fell to 0-5 in six
starts against the Mets.
”I was off a little bit,” Volquez said. ”I got behind in the
count and they hit the ball pretty good.”
The 26-year-old Cowgill, batting leadoff after winning the
center field job this spring, hit his first career slam off Brad
Bach in the seventh to make it 11-2. The only other opening day
slam in Mets history was hit by Todd Hundley on April 26, 1995, at
”I’m not sure I’ve been around a guy who competes like this guy
does,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. ”Today was a good start
for him and everybody else.”
Cowgill was acquired from Oakland in a December trade. Still
wearing eye black long after the final out, he acknowledged having
jitters for his first opening day start in the majors. But his
drive to left gave the Mets their most runs since Niese beat
Philadelphia 11-1 on July 3 last year.
”Just a humbling experience today. Very grateful for it,” he
Buck called the 5-foot-9 Cowgill ”a little spark plug.”
”He plays like his hair’s on fire. That’s what we need,” the
With his wife, parents and two brothers in the stands, Niese
(1-0) gave up Carlos Quentin’s run-scoring single and Yonder
Alonso’s solo homer before walking off to a standing ovation with
two outs in the seventh. Feeling strong, the fast-working lefty
wasn’t thrilled about coming out of the game after 101 pitches.
”He was moving the ball around. He was throwing his cutters and
curveballs for strikes,” Alonso said. ”He kept everybody off
balance and got ahead of guys. … So we just have to be a little
Mets reliever Scott Rice, making his big league debut after 14
seasons in the minors, struck out two in a perfect ninth.
”It’s one of the great stories,” Collins said. ”I just hope
he absorbed the whole thing. … I’m real proud of him.”
NOTES: Touted Padres prospect Jedd Gyorko made his major league
debut. He stranded four runners in his first two at-bats, then
doubled in the sixth for his first hit. … Santana, the one-time
Mets ace, is scheduled for another surgery Tuesday that he hopes
can save his career. The left-hander re-tore the anterior capsule
in his pitching shoulder. … The Mets honored hundreds of
Hurricane Sandy responders and volunteers in a pregame ceremony.
There was a moment of silence for victims of the storm and the
December school shootings in Newtown, Conn. … Rusty Staub, a
member of the Mets’ Hall of Fame, threw out the first pitch on his
69th birthday as the club celebrated the 40th anniversary of its
1973 pennant. … Ike Davis went 0 for 5 with four strikeouts.