Mets Home Opener Reaction April 8, 2021: The Elbow Drop
I have gone to many games at Shea Stadium and Citi Field over the last 36 years. Too many games to count. Today was the most bizarre ending that I have ever seen. The game was a rollercoaster of emotions for the Mets, as they were aggravating and frustrating to watch with 11 men left on base. Tajuan Walker was brilliant in his Mets debut, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning. He tired in the sixth and allowed two runs, giving Miami a 2-1 lead. A lead that looked like it would stand, as the Mets went down feebly in the sixth, seventh and eighth, whit Michael Conforto hitting into a double play in the seventh. The Mets got good relief for a chance as Miguel Castro, and Edwin Diaz were sharp, while Trevor Mayday stranded a runner at third.
The stage was set. The Marlins had 2-1 and had Anthony Bass on the mound for the save. It would not take long for the lead to be gone as Jeff McNeil launched a home run into the Coca-Cola Corner. It was McNeil's first hit of the season after having a few hanging with the shots on opening day. After James McCann grounded out, Louis Guillorme had an infield single and was followed by Brandon Nimmo, who had his second double of the game. With runners at second and third and one out, Francisco Lindor was given the free pass, setting up Michael Conforto with the bases loaded. The Mets had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth and got just one run, as Dom Smith was robbed at the fence by Starling Marte, who made a running catch in deep center, the first run scored, but it could have been more.
Michael Conforto had looked as bad as bad can be. He left 13 runners on base on Wednesday and had left 15 runners on through four games before his at-bat in the ninth. His at-bat in the ninth with the bases loaded was not pretty. He watched perfect pitches go down the plate and swung at balls in the dirt. Conforto had failed again, as the umpire signaled strike three. Fans booed, but then suddenly, the Mets were celebrating. Back in the New York Grove was playing, and Don Mattingly was pissed. Moments after calling strike three, Ron Kulpa ruled the ball, hit Conforto, and scored the winning run. Replay clearly showed Michael Conforto dropped the elbow into the pitch, but the play is not reviewable, and the Mets had strange yet what some may call a cheap win. Well, if you a cheapie, you take wins like that.
The Mets' good fortune was needed because it was likely that Jeurys Familia would have handled the gimmick tenth inning with a runner on second. That is never a good thing. Familia+Inherited Runners= Total Meltdown. While runners on second with no outs tend to stay at second as the Mets' inability to hit with RISP since 2020 has become a work of art. The Mets will have a day to celebrate as the Marlins stew before their next meeting on Saturday.
It was great to be back at the ballpark, and it was easy to get in after getting a COVID test before heading to New York. There was just 20% of capacity, but the crowd was enthusiastic. One major complaint and total failure was the lack of the pomp and circumstance of opening day. I know things are different with COVID, and I have no issue with not doing the Marlins intro. However, the Mets did not introduce their own roster, only the starting lineup. The fans deserved the right to give Jacob deGrom a big ovation. Also, the Mets' moment of silence for deceased players seemed rushed as they did not do enough to honor the memory of Tom Seaver for fans who were unable to do so last season. Lines for the team store were long, so I got my yearbook at a kiosk while the food prices worsen. I mean $7 for a hot dog? Sheesh! I would spend more and eat more if it was cheaper. The Mets needed to do a better job here. Hopefully, as more people get the vaccine, more fans can get into Citi Field, and we can have a full house by the middle of summer.