The Mets are 12-5 since competing in the first MLB contest of the new millennium and there have been heroes and villains in each game. Opening Day is a special experience for all MLB teams and fans as hope springs eternal across the country for what could be!
2016: ROYALS 4 METS 3
Villain: The Royals – In the first ever World Series Opening Day rematch, the Royals raised their 2015 banner and bested the Amazin’s in this Sunday Night match-up. Some may remember the first batter of the game, Alcides Escobar lining a ‘should be’ out to Yoenis Cespedes in left field off Matt Harvey, which Yo promptly dropped drawing flashbacks to Game 1. The Mets would go down 4-0 before an exciting rally fell short.
2015: METS 3 NATIONALS 1
HERO: KILLER B’S – Big Sexy Bartolo Colon got the starting nod for the opener and did not disappoint. He went six strong innings fanning eight Gnats yielding just three hits and one earned run. Southpaw Jerry Blevins recorded the first out in the bottom of the ninth and the then 37 year old Buddy Carlyle recorded his first career save when closer Jenrry Mejia couldn’t answer the call. The opening series win vs the Nationals in 2015 helped shed the memories of recent D.C. dominance over the Metropolitans.
2014: METS 7 NATIONALS 9 (10 Innings)
VILLAIN: KILLER Bullpen – Bobby Parnell blew the save in the ninth to force extra innings spoiling what would have been a great afternoon opener at Citi. The bullpen would falter again in the tenth with Jeurys Famila and John Lannon combining to give up four runs.
2013: METS 11 PADRES 2
HERO: COLIN COWGILL – Cowgill’s seventh inning grand slam broke the game open and led the Mets to an opening day victory. The Mets 13-hit barrage backed Jon Niese’s only career Opening Day start for the orange and blue.
2012: METS 1 BRAVES 0
HERO: JOHAN SANTANA – In true Mets fashion, Johan Santana was not awarded a win for a great performance going five innings giving up no runs and two hits, striking out five. His season, and likely his career, would later be cut short due to a capsule injury after overextending himself while recording the first and only no-hitter in franchise history.
2011: METS 2 MARLINS 6
VILLAIN: FUTURE MET JOHN BUCK – Past future former present backstop John Buck knocked a fourth inning three-run home run off Mike ‘the Mouthpiece’ Pelfrey. Big Pelf spit the bit and took the loss in the beginning a forgettable season for all involved.
2010: METS 7 MARLINS 1
HERO: DAVID WRIGHT – David’s first inning two-run home run would be all the Mets needed that day to get the W. In a highly anticipated pitchers duel between Johan Santana and Josh Johnson, the masterful Santana edged his counterpart and gets an honorable mention HERO nod.
2009: METS 2 REDS 1
HERO: DANIEL MURPHY – Murphy would drive in the Mets lone runs of the day on a solo homer. He backed another stellar Johan Opening Day start. A week later the Mets opened Citi Field, a game in which Mike Pelfrey (permanent villain) got the start and the loss. His first pitch (the first pitch in Citi Field History) was a fastball that was deposited into the right field corner by Jody Gerut of the Padres.
2008: METS 7 MARLINS 2
VILLAIN: LUIS CASTILLO – Sure, the Mets got a nice win. Sure, David Wright had two hits and three RBI. Sure, Johan Santana got the W k’ing eight batters through seven three hit innings. However, Castillo is the villain of the millennium for me. He hit .245 in 2008, which was the first year of a four year $25 million dollar deal that the Mets signed him to after the 2007 season. Thankfully, he would only make it through three of those years. His stint was highlighted by the dropped pop up at Yankee Stadium and his stance to not attended a Veteran’s hospital in Washington with the rest of the club because he would be too “traumatized”. Oh Luis, who really traumatized who in this relationship?
2007: METS 6 CARDINALS 1
HERO: PAUL LO DUCA – The Duke, AKA Captain Red Ass, who in my opinion was one of the most underrated Mets of all time, recorded three of the club’s twelve hits and three RBI in this Opening Day contest. He also caught starter Tom Glavine’s six innings of one run ball. Lo Duca would hit .272 in 2007 after an outstanding .318 in 2006. The argument can be made that the Mets have not had a prototypical or even sufficient #2 hitter since his departure.
2006: METS 3 NATIONALS 2
HERO: XAVIER NADY – Another underrated Met, the X-man and his high leg kick went 4-4 with two doubles in the opener. He also hit an important homer in an exciting Subway Series comeback win later that season. He, unfortunately, was traded at the deadline for Roberto Hernandez to bolster the bullpen after Duaner Sanchez’s Miami mishap in a taxicab. The throw in in that deal? Oliver Perez, who would later start game 7 of the NLCS. Lastings Milledge took over the duties unsuccessfully in RF before the August waiver wire addition of Shawn Green.
2005: METS 7 REDS 6
VILLAIN: BRADEN LOOPER – On what was another delightful opening afternoon (until the ninth) the Mets led by two after eight innings. Looper blew the save by failing to record an out, giving up three runs on three hits. Two of those were homers, the first was a towering moon shot by Adam Dunn. The game ended when Looper served up a meatball to Joe ”the Joker” Randa making the Reds walk-off winners. The Amazin’s would start that year off 0-5. Joe Randa is still smiling somewhere.
2004: METS 7 BRAVES 2
HERO: KAZ MATSUI – Though a monumental bust, I have to give credit to Kaz here. He told the media post-game that he promised his friends in Japan he would close his eyes and swing at the first pitch he saw in a regular season game in America. The result? A bomb of a home run to straightaway center field. He finished the day 3-3 with 3 RBI. Ironically, he would hit a lead off inside-the-park home run the following year vs the Reds in the opener. Maybe the Mets should have tried to make him play blindfolded?
2003: METS 2 CUBS 15
VILLAIN: TOM GLAVINE – In his first start as a Met, Glavine may have still thought he was pitching for the Braves. The Hall of Famer allowed four runs in the first and five overall on eight hits in just 3.2 innings pitched. Honorable mention villain? Mike Bascik and his NINE earned runs he gave up in 2 frames of work. Ouch. In 2007, Tom Glavine’s Mets career would end the way it started.
2002: METS 6 PIRATES 2
HERO: AL LEITER – Tough game to pick here. I went with Al because he threw six innings of shutout ball on what was likely 342 pitches (it was really 108). Edgardo Alfonzo went 3-4 so he gets a mention. What may be even more impressive, though, is Mo Vaughn going 0-5 with 2 strikeouts. The impressive part? The Mets actually found pants to fit this man.
2001: METS 6 BRAVES 4 (10 INNINGS)
HERO: ROBIN VENTURA – Love him. Number four was known for hitting grand slams. On this day, after John Franco blew a late lead, Ventura hit twin two run homers. The first, off John ‘7 train’ Rocker in the 8th to force extra innings. He hit his 2nd two run homer in the tenth to get the Mets the win.
2000: METS 3 CUBS 5
VILLAIN: MIKE HAMPTON – In his first start as a Met, same as his first start in Tokyo, Japan, Mike Hampton would walk 9 in this contest. Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook would give up some late runs costing them the game. However, all’s well that ends well, as Hampton would be the MVP of the NLCS by pitching a complete game shutout for his second win of the series in Game 5. This propelled the Mets to a World Series appearance vs the Yankees.
Editors Note: A version of this article was originally written by the author for ‘The Daily Stache’.