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Opening Day at Citi Field had tributes and celebrations, homecomings and sendoffs. The moment the Mets stepped on the field for batting practice sporting Gary Carter’s No. 8 jersey, you could tell it was going to be a day to remember. By the close of the ninth inning, the Mets had improved their Opening Day record to 33-18—the best in the majors.
The day was filled with remembrances of Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher and member of the 1986 World Series champions who died this offseason after a long battle with brain cancer. Carter’s wife and children were on hand to throw out the first pitches, after Ralph Kiner’s live announcements of the rosters.
On the field, Johan Santana’s reconstructed arm silenced the Braves’ bats for five innings. The scoreless first frames features a battle between Santana’s still-devastating changeup and Tommy Hanson’s unbelievable curveball. In the end, David Wright’s RBI single in the sixth was enough to carry the Mets.
Besides the return of Johan Santana and tribute to Gary Carter, the new dimensions of Citi Field were the biggest story of the day. A new seating area in left field brought the fences 12 feet closer to the plate, and many fans wondered if it would come into play in the first game of the season.
When Jason Bay stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, the fans’ boos rained down on him. Some consider him the most overrated player on the team. He certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations in Flushing. With runners on first and second, Bay drove the ball deep to left, threatening the first fans to enter the Party City Deck. The ball landed in the glove of left fielder Jose Constanza. Even with the 12-foot boost, Bay still only has warning track power.
While chasing down Tyler Pastornicky’s triple (the first hit of the Atlanta shortstop’s career), Mets center fielder Andres Torres pulled up short with a strained left calf. Torres had been battling the injury for much of spring training, but the run through the outfield was the last straw. Torres has been placed on the 15 day DL, and his spot in the lineup will be filled by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Welcome to the big leagues, Kirk!