A sellout crowd at Citi Field helped the Mets kickoff the 2014 campaign, an Opening Day loss to division rivals the Washington Nationals, 9-7 in 10 innings.
The Mets wasted a strong start by Dillon Gee, who was forced out of the game in the 7th inning with a 4-3 lead, only to see the bullpen falter. The first two relievers, Carlos Torres and Scott Rice, failed to even throw a strike, giving up two walks and the lead.
Closer Bobby Parnell, who is coming off an injury and had a shaky spring training that saw the velocity on his fastball dip significantly, had a chance to win the game in the 9th after the Mets regained the lead thanks to a solo shot from Juan Lagares, instead gave up a run and sent the game into extras.
In the first additional frame, the Nationals blew the game open with four runs, included a three-run home run from Anthony Rendon off reliever John Lannan.
One bright spot in the Mets bullpen was Jose Valverde, the former Detroit Tigers closer the Mets acquired this year. Valverde came in the game in the 7th inning to get the Mets out of a bases-loaded jam, and proceeded to face four batters and strike out three of them.
The Mets offense got a spark from an unlikely spot from outfielder Donald Brown, who was only on the roster because an injury to Jon Niese opened a spot and only in the starting lineup because of an injury to Chris Young. Brown tagged Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg for a three-run homer in the first inning.
David Wright added a two-run home run of his own in the 10th inning, but by then the game was too far out of reach. Aside from that, Mets hitters struck out an abysmal 18 times.
Three of those came from the Mets sole splashy free agent acquisition in the offseason, former Yankee outfielder Curtis Granderson, who struggled with striking out last year. He went 0-for-5 on the day at the plate and left three men on base.
Despite Alderson’s prediction of 90 wins, expectations for the Mets are on the low side this year, especially after phenom pitcher Matt Harvey was forced to have Tommy John surgery and will likely miss the entire year. Still, the crowd and atmosphere at Citi Field was electric.
Mayor Bill de Blasio threw out the first pitch, and despite some early problems with traffic, parking, and weather that left many seats still empty for the first inning, the stadium eventually filled up. After the game, fan emotions were mixed, from Opening Day is always a great time to be at the ball park to resignation that if the first game of the year is any indication, it’s going to be a long, long season.