David Wright had to think when asked what attribute would best describe his team in a Sunday morning press conference.
After a moment, he settled on “scrappy.”
Roughly 29 hours later, the 2013 Mets began the process of living up to their captain’s appraisal.
There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the Mets’ 11-2 Opening Day win over the Padres at Citi Field Monday afternoon. Instead, what the announced 41,053 in attendance witnessed was a three hour and 20 minute ode to fundamental baseball.
The Mets improved to an MLB-best 34-18 on Opening Day with an offensive attack that plated 11 runs on 13 hits. The Mets finished the afternoon 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Seven players recorded at least one RBI, and five others recorded at least one two-out RBI.
Colin Cowgill set a career high with four RBI, all coming in the seventh with his two-out grand slam. Cowgill’s first major-league grand slam increased the lead to 11-2. Wright went 1-for-4 with a walk, an RBI, a run scored and two stolen bases.
Marlon Byrd finished 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. John Buck and Ruben Tejada each went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a RBI.
Defensively, the Mets committed only one error, and Jon Niese threw 6 2/3 strong innings to earn the win in his first opening day start. He allowed what looks to be a bad Padres team only four hits and two runs. Niese also reached base in all three plate appearances with two singles and walk. He also drove in the second run of the season for the Mets.
Brandon Lyon, Scott Atchison and Scott Rice combined to throw a perfect 2 1/3 innings in relief of Niese.
It was as close to a perfect start as could be for a team whose manager has emphasized playing the game “the right way” throughout his tenure as manager.
Simply, the Mets were a Tom Emanski Instructional Video. What they weren’t was flashy.
That trait is characteristic of the reigning NL East champion Nationals.
Three hours and 59 minutes southwest of Citi Field, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg took turns dominating the moribund Marlins, in the Nationals’ 2-0 Opening Day win at Nationals Park.
Harper became the youngest player in MLB history to hit two home runs in his team’s first game of a season, while Strasburg limited the Marlins to three hits in seven innings. The win was the first of the season for a team many predict will win the World Series.
The Nationals win was marked by on-field award presentations and curtain calls. For Mets fans of a certain vintage, if you shut your eyes, your memory took you back to Queens in the late 1980s and the Davey Johnson-managed Mets.
He’s remembered fondly around these parts for being the on-field leader of a brash, brawling, star-laden squad to its second World Series championship. He is expected to lead a brash, star-laden squad to its first World Series championship in his last season as a manager.
The expectations in Queens this year are decidedly different than they are in our nation’s capital. The Nationals are expected to win while the Mets are setting the foundation for the future.
Yet on Opening Day, everyone’s a contender — even a scrappy team.
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.