The new 60-game MLB season started on Thursday and it feels weird having baseball to look forward to and agonize over every day after such a long break. The Mets are going to play a game almost every day for the next two months and for each one I’m either going to watch and worry that something bad will happen or not watch and worry that I’m missing something good. It’s a grind.
The 2020 campaign couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start. On Opening Day, Yoenis Cespedes returned to real game action after a long battle with lower body injuries and wild boar attacks to hit the game-winning home run while Jacob deGrom set his sights on a third straight Cy Young Award with five scoreless innings. The bullpen, including maligned closer Edwin Diaz, was excellent and New York defeated the rival Braves 1-0.
But Opening Day is where the Mets always thrive and in recent years they’ve started strong in April only to fade in the summer months. So what did that mean for this year? Would a hot start propel the Mets to the pennant, or would they just be bad right away because the season started in July?
We still don’t know, but if Saturday was any indication, we are in for a wild two-month ride. The Mets fell behind early but took a 2-1 lead in the fifth thanks to extra-base knocks by Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario. Steven Matz settled in on the bump and gave New York six strong innings. The bullpen held up for the second straight day… all the way up to the last out in the ninth inning.
That’s when Marcell Ozuna took Diaz’s belt-high fastball ALL the way out of here. I mean that thing got out quick. Tie game. Of course the only part of the game I was able to watch was the Mets putting a runner on third with one out in the seventh and failing to score him.
Hunter Strickland came on for the 10th and gave up three runs to seal the deal for Atlanta. All offseason long we talked about how Diaz was bound to improve and how his rate of giving up a home run on nearly every fly ball was unsustainable and yet here we are. One out away from a two-game lead on the Braves and Ozuna hits a freaking laser beam.
Same old Mets? I don’t know. Jeurys Familia kind of looks like his old self and would make a great closer if that holds up. Robinson Cano still looks washed and Luis Rojas needs to find a way to get Dominic Smith into the lineup. That might be tough with Cespedes filling the DH spot.
The good news is that this team should easily bumble it’s way into the postseason with MLB and the Player’s Association agreeing to a 16-team field. There’s enough talent on this team to win 35 games, so winning 28 or 29 and getting a little lucky in October seems very plausible.