New York Daily News

Righty sharp in first game since 2019, gets bombs from Dom, Pete



PHILADELPH­IA – Marcus Stroman’s six solid innings in his season debut made it easy to forget he hadn’t pitched in a major-league game since Sept. 27, 2019. Stroman returned to the mound Tuesday after opting out of the 2020 season in all his ground-ball prowess. The righthande­r induced 13 ground-ball outs among his 18 total in the Mets’ 8-4 win over the Phillies. Stroman held Philadelph­ia to one run on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks over 85 pitches. And, unlike Monday night, the bullpen took care of the final nine outs with a little extra breathing room thanks to the Mets lineup.

“Whenever I’ve been good in my career, that’s been my forte,” Stroman said of his ability to get outs on ground balls Tuesday. “I put a ton of work in this offseason and it was exciting to get back out there.”

Pete Alonso crushed his first dinger of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth inning. It was the 70th home run of his young career. Dominic Smith, in his first game of the year, provided the early power by muscling a fastball that was as high as his shoulders for a two-run home run to left field in the fourth that gave the Mets a two-run lead. In doing so, Smith gave a clear signal to his manager how he can help the team if he simply just plays.

“We waited for a long time,” Smith said. “To finally be out there watching the game and seeing my guys go out there and have fun, it was just tremendous to finally play baseball again.”

Last Thursday, the Mets learned their Opening Day matchup against the Nationals was postponed. A day later, the news got worse: their entire series was delayed after four Nationals players tested positive for COVID-19. Mets manager Luis Rojas said, “these guys are like caged animals right now.”

On Sunday, the Mets took a threehour bus trip to Philly, then Monday finally arrived, and all the animals were let out of the cage, except one.

Smith was not in the lineup

Monday, Rojas said, because of the lefty Matt Moore on the mound. Though there was at least one big spot for Smith to come into the game, with the bases loaded in the fourth and the southpaw out, Smith sat on the bench all night.

On Tuesday, when he was finally unleashed, Smith showed up with a two-run blast.

“I can consider him an everyday player,” Rojas said. “He doesn’t get the chance to start one day, and then he does something special the next.” The Mets put up a four-run seventh inning after Vince Velasquez walked three of the first four batters he faced. That the Mets capitalize­d on the opportunit­y, and extended their one-run lead to a five-run advantage, was a positive sign after they led the league with runners left in scoring position in 2020. Francisco Lindor collected his first RBI as a Met on a sacrifice fly and Brandon Nimmo collected three walks across his five plate appearance­s.

Jeurys Familia pitched a shaky ninth inning, allowing two runs before finishing it off.

Trevor May, who struggled in his Mets debut on Opening Day, corrected himself with a scoreless eighth inning. Edwin Diaz, who looked terrific in exhibition games this spring, has yet to make his season debut.

The Mets’ first win of the season was also Steve Cohen’s first victory as owner. Rojas began his postgame presser Tuesday with a special announceme­nt for his boss; the skipper was holding the baseball that was caught in the ninth inning for the final out that sealed the Mets’, and Cohen’s, first win. Rojas said he plans to give that ball to Cohen on Thursday, ahead of the home opener.

“Congrats Steve,” Rojas said. “You always remember the first win for sure.”

“The buzz and the excitement started at the early part of spring training and it all revolves around him,” Smith said of playing for Cohen. “When he took over the ownership and every move he’s made has been great. I’m super excited to give Steve his first win … this is just the first of many for him.”

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