A quintet of New York Mets pitchers combined to shut out the Atlanta Braves 1-0 to get the team's 50th anniversary season off on a high note on Opening Day at Citi Field.
Johan Santana delivers a pitch against the Atlanta Braves on Opening Day.
Johan Santana, who had not played in 18 months thanks to shoulder surgery at the end of the 2010 season, started the game for the Mets and looked good doing it.
"[Santana] is by far one of the greatest competitors I've been around," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "That's why I say if anybody can come back he can. I wanted him to go another couple of innings if I could have, but he did exactly what we asked him to do."
Santana pitched five innings, striking out five, walking two and allowing two hits. He was solid for four innings, then things started to come apart at the seams in the fifth. He walked the bases loaded, but got Michael Bourn to ground right back to the mound and Santana escaped unscathed.
His opposite number, Tommy Hanson, went five-plus innings allowing four hits but he was credited with the lone earned run of the game and got a loss despite allowing just four hits and walking three while striking out four.
The Mets finally broke the deadlock in the bottom of the sixth when David Wright singled to left to score Andres Torres from third.
"To have David come and get the big hit means a lot to him," Collins said. "He's a real proud pro."
With Santana out, Ramon Ramirez, Tim Byrdak, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco combined over the final five innings to keep the Braves off the board.
Ramirez was credited with the win, throwing one and a third innings, allowing two hits and a walk in his Mets debut.
It got a bit hairy for the Mets in the top of the seventh. Ramirez gave up a triple to center field to Braves rookie Tyler Pastornicky. He was lifted in favor of Byrdak, who came in and punched out Jose Costanza and Bourne in back-to-back at bats to preserve the lead.
Francisco slammed the door shut in the ninth with an impressive sequence. He got Freddie Freeman to ground out to second, jammed Eric Hinske for a pop out to the catcher then set down Jason Heyward on six pitches to end the game.
Santana's start was a step in the right direction, but it was more relieving than satisfying for the man himself.
"I finally had the opportunity to go out there in a game that counts and get it out of the way," Santana said.
It has been a trying offseason for the Mets with financial woes for the Wilpons, and many people predicting the team to struggle again this season. But this kind of victory shows that they perhaps have a bit more in the tank than most people predicted, especially with the return of Santana.
"It's one game, but it is very important for us," Collins said. "We have been preaching all spring that we can play with anybody. If we pitch we can compete."
Mets great Gary Carter was honored before the game in a brief but moving ceremony. Carter, the Mets catcher during their 1986 World Title season, died of brain cancer in February at the age of 57. His widow Sandy and his daughters Christy Kearce and Kimmy Bloemers as well as his son D.J. unveiled a tribute to him on the wall in left center, then threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
The wall tribute is a larger version of the patches the Mets will wear on their right sleeves throughout the season. It features a black image of home plate, with Carter's nickname "Kid" and his number 8 in white text.
The ovation for his family during the unveiling was one of the loudest and most boisterous moments for the Mets faithful at Citi Field. Despite earlier concerns that few tickets would be sold, the attendance was announced as a sell-out. The announced figure was 42,080, the largest crowd in Citi Field history, but there were some sections that never filled in along the upper decks and behind the Modell's sign in right field.
Mets centerfielder Andres Torres was injured in the seventh inning chasing a fly ball in center field. He was taken out of the game and diagnosed with a calf strain. It is unclear how much time he will miss, but Collins anticipates him being out of the lineup at least for the next game on Saturday.
The sixth inning triple from Braves shortstop Tyler Pastornicky was his first major league hit.
Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Josh Thole had two hits each for the Mets to lead the offense.
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