Hey everyone. Josh Thomson here for opening day at Citi Field. The flashbulbs are popping as I write this. Before we get to the park, here are the lineups and a few notes:
33 Gerut, CF
3 Eckstein, 2B
24 Giles, RF
23 Gonzalez, 1B
7 Headley, LF
5 Kouzmanoff, 3B
4 Hundley, C
15 Rodriguez, SS
27 Silva, RHP
7 Reyes, SS
28 Murphy, LF
5 Wright, 3B
21 Delgado, 1B
15 Beltran, CF
19 Church, RF
23 Schneider, C
1 Castillo, 2B
34 Pelfrey, RHP
Notes: Gary Sheffield will make his first Met start on Wednesday in Game 2. … Johan Santana is in Florida with his wife. Doctors will induce labor tomorrow. It is not expected to have an impact on Santana’s next start. … Marlon Anderson was placed on release waivers. … Ryan Church said he asked Jeff Wilpon to install padding near the “Modell’s” sign on the RF wall and Wilpon complied. Balls bounced violently off it during the exhibition games against the Red Sox and Church said the padding helps, at least a little.
The ballpark: Obviously, Citi Field is a beautiful park. Nearly every seat is filled and it’s 20 minutes before first pitch. The site lines are terrific. The food choices are plenty. And the quirks are many.
The Mets have quite the celebration planned. The outfield and infield are lined with members of the military and the cast of the Broadway musical “West Side Story” is about to sing the national anthem. It will be followed by Tom Seaver throwing out the field ball to Mike Piazza. (We’re supposed to hear from Seaver and Darryl Strawberry later, but not Piazza.)
The introductions were interesting. A few guys were cheered especially loudly, like K-Rod, Wright and Reyes. A few obvious ones were booed, like Heath Bell and Duaner Sanchez of the Pads. But Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo were jeered a bit too. I never understood why fans boo players on opening day.
One thing I’ve talked to other writers about that is really striking when you first walk onto the field is that you don’t feel like this is a Mets game. Maybe after so many years at Shea, your mind just can’t connect the Mets to a first-rate stadium, but that’s definitely what this is. That will change soon, but it’ll take more than a game or two until this becomes home.
To the same point, Jerry Manuel told us before the game that the club won’t really feel its homefield advantage until July or so. By then they’ll know the bounces, the breaks, the wind, the grass. It’s trial by error right now. Church spent time before the game with a staff member throwing balls off the wall to test the angles. There are many, he said, with some balls bouncing toward center and others toward the right field line. Sheff can’t remember ever playing an outfield like it. That says something coming from a man in his 40s who has traveled like majors.
More on the game in a bit…First pitch is 10 minutes away…
7:19 p.m.: I’m recording a list of firsts tonight. First pitch. First strikeout. First putout. Etc. Little did I think Jody Gerut of all people would combine several Citi Field firsts into one swing. Sheesh. His solo homer to leadoff the night gave the Padres a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Pelfrey is not sharp.
7:27 p.m.: The one thing guys kept saying before the game about Citi Field: “It’s big.” David Wright hesitated for a split second rounding first, but he obviously decided to take a chance on the park’s expansive outfield. Wright beat the throw to second for a double, the club’s first hit in its new digs.
8:22 p.m.: It’s early, but the ballpark has already revealed a few of its nooks. Carlos Beltran just smoked a drive to center that Jody Gerut caught about halfway up the center field wall. The ball died in the outfield. Also, David Eckstein’s two-run double in the second angled back toward the infield. The shortstops and second basemen won’t be able to give up on shots down the line.
As for Pelfrey, it’s been both ugly and frustrating. The big righty has allowed nine baserunners through four innings. The Padres are right on his pitches.
8:30 p.m.: So is Pelfrey just a slow starter or are you worried about him? Adrian Gonzalez’s homer off the foul pole just gave the Padres a 5-1 lead.
8:51 p.m.: First goosebump moment at Citi Field. Tell me that didn’t get the blood boiling on this cold April night.
David Wright, of course, hit a three-run homer. He came through in one of those big spots that he was much criticized for not producing in last season. New park. New result I guess.
Wright smacked the ball over the wall in left after Dan Murphy had driven in Gary Sheffield on a single. The three-run homer came with two outs on a full count to drive Walter Silva from the game and tie the score 5-5.
9:11 p.m.: Check out this photo of the cat running on the field. Give Yahoo! credit though. It has already been an odd night here at Citi Field. I mean, it’s possible the Mets will lose a second straight game thanks to a dropped fly ball in the outfield. That just isn’t supposed to happen.
10:05 p.m.: This could be a tough finish to swallow. Not only did Duaner Sanchez sew up the eighth with a 1-2-3 frame, you know Heath Bell is coming in for the ninth.
10:23 p.m.: Mets lost 6-5. Sanchez and Bell were perfect.