We finally made it to opening day. Today at 4:10 PM, the Mets will open their 60 game season against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. What can we look forward to and expect from today’s game?
Despite giving Mets fans everywhere a minor heart attack when he left a simulation game early with back stiffness, Jacob DeGrom will indeed start opening day for the Mets against Mike Soroka of the Braves. DeGrom has no doubt been the best pitcher in the MLB the last couple seasons, and has back to back NL Cy Young awards to show for it. Soroka quietly enjoyed an excellent rookie campaign in 2019 that was mostly overshadowed by Mets rookie 1B Pete Alonso’s record breaking year. DeGrom may be on a shorter leash this start, as he was unable to fully complete the “Summer Camp” due to his back stiffness, and the Mets do not want to cause any damage to their ace’s arm. It will be very interesting to see how rookie manager Luis Rojas handles deGrom this evening.
Tonight marks the return to competitive action for slugger Yoenis Cespedes. The last time Cespedes played in a game was July 20th, 2018. He is in a contract year once again, and if he can regain his 2015-2017 form with the Mets, he will be another excellent hitter in a lineup that is looking extremely formidable. Cespedes is hitting 5th in the order tonight; the order is Nimmo CF, McNeil 3B, Alonso 1B, Conforto RF, Cespedes DH, Cano 2B, Davis LF, Ramos C, Rosario SS. You know you have an elite lineup when Robinson Cano is likely the worst hitter in it. The Mets lineup is very streaky. If guys like Cespedes, Conforto, Davis, and Alonso can get hot during this 60 game stretch, they can carry the Mets very far. And with a suddenly weakened rotation missing key pieces like Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, the lineup needs to step up and carry the load to the promised land.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, this evening will be the debut for rookie manager Luis Rojas. After the disaster that was Mickey Callaway was finally fired following the 2019 season, the Mets hired Carlos Beltran to be their next manager. However, just a couple weeks later, Beltran became the center of the huge Astros cheating scandal and lost his new job, along with Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Rojas was then quickly hired to replace Beltran, and seems to be the much better option anyway. Rojas has been coaching in the Mets minor league system for many years, and all the young guys on the team who came up in the Mets system know him well, and could not speak any more highly of him. Judging by his first lineup card, he knows what he’s doing more than Mickey did; he has Cano in the 6 hole, not the 3 hole where Mickey put him far too often. As a fan, I can’t wait to see how Rojas manages, especially with the bullpen. The Mets have 3 proven capable closers in their pen in Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, and offseason addition Dellin Betances. Rojas has declined to name a closer, which leads to speculation that he could use a “closer-by-committee”. In all honestly, the Mets were pretty much a competent manager away from making the playoffs last season. I look forward to Luis Rojas being the long term manager of this team.
All in all, I believe the Mets are in excellent position to be one of the top contenders in the playoffs in this unprecedented season. My prediction for tonight’s game is a 5-2 Met victory. Jacob deGrom will go 6 innings, allowing 1 run. The bullpen will allow 1 more run before Edwin Diaz closes the door and gets his first save of the season, starting off with an injection of confidence coming off a nightmare of a 2019 season. Pete Alonso will have 2 RBI’s, and Yoenis Cespedes will homer in his first game back. It will be a very entertaining return for the Mets after an all-too-long wait of 10 months.