Opening Day is a spectacular time of the year. It’s full of pageantry, hope, and excitement.
Every team, regardless of what their actual chances are, believes they have a chance to win it all. The New York Mets and Washington Nationals faced off Monday at Citi Field, with the Mets falling in extra innings by a score of 9-7. The bullpen, which has been an issue for New York for years, once again reared its ugly head, blowing the lead twice.
Before the game the Mets honored their longtime announcer Ralph Kiner who died back in February at the age of 91. This is the first season that Kiner will not be a part of the Mets broadcast. Kiner was a Hall of Famer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, hitting over 400 home runs in his ten-year war-shortened career.
Kiner came to the Mets in their very first year in 1962, teaming with Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson for 17 seasons on radio and television, the longest tenured broadcast team in baseball history. The team will wear a Kiner patch on their uniform this season to honor the legend.
A plaque was unveiled in left field in his honor. A petition has started to designate left field as Kiner’s Korner after both his post-game interview show and his prowess in left-field for the Pirates.
The season started with some complications. Starting second baseman Daniel Murphy and starting outfielder Chris Young were not in the Opening Day lineup.
Young was out with a strained calf while Murphy was flown down to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of his first child. Dillon Gee deservedly got the start for the Mets, his first start on Opening Day. After a rough start last season, Gee pitched phenomenally and continued to do so in Spring Training.
The Mets provided offensive support for Gee early on with a three-run home run by outfielder Andrew Brown in the bottom of the first, giving them a 3-0 lead. Gee looked a little shaky early Monday, allowing a two run home run to Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche in the top of the second bring Washington within a run.
From there Gee settled into a groove, retiring 15 batters in a row. In the bottom of the second Eric Young Jr., getting the start at second base in Murphy’s absence, hit a sacrifice fly, which brought in catcher Travis d’Arnaud and extended the Mets lead 4-2.
At the start of the 7th inning, Gee allowed a single to Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper. The next batter grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Harper out at second.
Gee then allowed a walk to LaRoche and a double by Anthony Rendon, shrinking the Mets lead to 4-3.
Manager Terry Collins went to his bullpen, bringing in Carlos Torres to get the final two outs. That didn’t happen. Torres walked Nate McClouth who pinch-hit for Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strausburg, to load the bases.
Lefty reliever Scott Rice replaced Torres to face outfielder Denard Span. Rice walked Span to tie the game, meaning Gee would not get a decision.
Jose Valverde came in to limit the damage and get out of the jam. The former star closer came in struck out the following two batters to get out of the inning. Valverde looked good, pitching a 1-2-3 8th inning.
In the bottom of the 8th inning, Juan Lagares smacked a home run over the centerfield fence allowing the Mets to retake the lead 5-4. Lagares was put in the starting lineup in place of the injured Chris Young, and showed why he should be starting everyday.
In the top of the 9th, closer Bobby Parnell came in to shut the door on the Nationals. While not looking 100% Parnell did look effective. He allowed a leadoff single to shortstop Ian Desmond but then proceeded to get LaRoche hit a lazy pop fly for the first out, and then struck out second baseman Anthony Rendon.
Infielder Danny Espinosa was called to pinch-hit for pitcher Tyler Clippard. Espinosa had a good at bat against Parnell. On a 3-2 count it appeared Parnell had struck out Espinosa but the home-plate umpire called a ball. The next batter, Denard Span, lined a double to center field, scoring Desmond. Parnell then proceeded to get Ryan Zimmerman to fly out to end the inning.
Extra innings were no better for the Mets. The bullpen allowed four more runs including a three run home run by Anthony Rendon, off of Johhn Lannnan, before the inning was over. The Mets would not go quietly in the bottom of the 10th, but their rally highlighted by a David Wright three run shot, ultimately fell short.
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