The pomp and circumstance of a home opener won’t be new to anyone on the veteran-laden New York Mets.
But manager Buck Showalter — no neophyte himself — knows even the most experienced player and manager still can feel a surge of nervous energy prior to and during the first home game of the season.
The Mets are slated to play their Citi Field opener Friday afternoon, when they host the Arizona Diamondbacks to begin a three-game series.
Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Mets against the Diamondbacks’ Zach Davies (0-0, 3.60 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
Both teams were off Thursday after earning wins Wednesday. The visiting Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies 9-6 in the rubber game of a three-game series, and the host Diamondbacks salvaged a split of a two-game set by edging the Houston Astros 3-2 in 10 innings.
The win capped an eventful road trip for the Mets, whose players were hit by pitches 10 times. The beaning last Friday of Francisco Lindor by the Washington Nationals’ Steve Cishek nearly set off a brawl.
The Mets then squandered eighth-inning leads against the Nationals on Sunday and against the Phillies on Monday before winning the final two games of the series in Philadelphia. New York raced out to an 8-1 lead before fending off a late rally in Wednesday’s win.
Now comes the most anticipated moment of the young season.
A sellout crowd is expected for the home debut of the new-look Mets, who spent more than $250 million on a quartet of big-name free agents — Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte and three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. They hired Showalter, a veteran of more than 3,000 regular season games, as manager.
“It’ll be fun — every time it’s Opening Day at home, you want to have good weather and (have) everybody find a place to park and we play a good game,” Showalter said. “There’s not many more (big) pressure days, in my mind. You really want to play well in front of the fans. First game, it’s been a while.”
The Diamondbacks headed east after a season-opening homestand bookended by walk-off wins. Rookie Seth Beer hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run ninth-inning rally in a 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on April 7 before teaming up with Ketel Marte to produce the 10th-inning RBIs Wednesday, when Arizona snapped a four-game losing streak.
Beer laced the game-tying single with one out and Marte was credited with the game-winning sacrifice fly after Chas McCormick dropped his bases-loaded fly to deep left.
The rally provided some early catharsis for the Diamondbacks, who scored just eight runs in 36 innings against the Padres and Astros in between their walk-off rallies.
“I’ve been sitting on a bus or a plane after a loss and it’s no fun,” Diamondbacks designated hitter Cooper Hummel said. “But after a win like that and going into New York and facing a very good Mets team? It puts us in the right spot going forward.”
Both Bassitt and Davies made their season debuts last Saturday. Bassitt earned the win by tossing six scoreless innings in the Mets’ 5-0 victory over the Nationals and Davies didn’t factor into the decision after surrendering two runs over five innings in the Diamondbacks’ 5-2 loss to the Padres.
Bassitt is 2-0 with a 3.63 ERA in three career starts against the Diamondbacks. Davies is 3-2 with a 5.01 ERA in eight starts against the Mets.
–Field Level Media