New York Mets beat Philadelphia Phillies in home opener

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  April 9, 2016 at 12:41 AM
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NEW YORK -- The New York Mets finished celebrating their trip to the 2015 World Series on Friday afternoon -- and then went out and produced a victory that mirrored their pennant-winning season.

The Mets started slowly but finished fast Friday, when they scored twice in the sixth and four times in the seventh on their way to a 7-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies in their home opener in front of a regular-season-record crowd of 44,099 at Citi Field.

Neil Walker had an RBI single in each inning, and Michael Conforto delivered an RBI double in the sixth and a two-run single in the seventh for the Mets, who scored three runs or fewer in 61 of their first 97 games last year before leading the National League in runs scored from July 25 until the end of the season. New York eventually fell to the Kansas City Royals in five games in the World Series.

On Friday, the Mets -- who watched before the game as former pennant-winning Mets Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco and Rusty Staub raised a flag honoring the franchise's first pennant since 2000 -- weren't so much paying homage to 2015 as they were shaking off the rust accumulated during a haphazard opening-week schedule. New York visited the Royals for World Series rematches on Sunday and Tuesday before getting consecutive days off.

"We've had such a strange week," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You play two games in six days, there's not a lot of rhythm going on. I thought we put together some very good at-bats on them. We just got some pitches, we didn't do much damage with them until late in the game. But I thought there were some very, very good at-bats in the sixth and seventh."

The Mets forced Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff to throw 50 pitches in the first two innings but scored just once -- on a groundout by pitcher Jacob deGrom. Eickhoff set down 12 of 13 between the second and fifth innings before he was chased during a nine-pitch span opening the sixth in which Lucas Duda doubled and scored on a single by Walker, who scored on Conforto's hit.

"We didn't start out great for the first several innings," said Walker, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December to replace NL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Daniel Murphy. "And then we put some pressure on in the middle innings and we were able to score some runs here and there."

In the seventh, five straight Mets reached base with one out against left-hander James Russell. Travis d'Arnaud capped the scoring with an RBI single.

The three RBIs tied a career high for Conforto, who helped key the Mets' resurgence last season by hitting .270 with nine homers and 26 RBIs following his recall from Double-A Binghamton on July 24 before he added three homers in 12 playoff games.

"It was cool to see the flag go up and kind of get chills a little bit -- you get those feelings coming back," Conforto said. "It's also motivation to get the ultimate, the trophy and the World Series banner. Lot of feelings today but it was definitely a lot of fun."

The only concern for the Mets on Friday was deGrom, who earned the win but exited after six innings due to tightness in his right lat. DeGrom allowed one run on five hits and walked none while striking out six. Collins said the Mets would have a better prognosis for deGrom on Saturday.

"I was going to go out for the seventh, and then I just thought twice about it and said, 'Hey, maybe I should say something,'" deGrom said.

Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez had RBI singles for the Phillies, who have been outscored 26-12 in losing their first four games.

"We're not the best-hitting team in the league, but we're certainly better than we're showing," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We've got to get everybody going. It seems like they're trying too hard."

Eickhoff allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out three.

"Eickhoff was a little rusty, but then he got himself together and started pitching a lot better," Mackanin said.

NOTES: A moment of silence was held in honor of late Mets senior director of media relations Shannon Forde, who died of breast cancer on March 4. ... The Mets opened at home on a Friday for the 10th time in franchise history but only the second time this century. The Phillies were the Mets' opponent in the home opener for the second straight season and the 10th time overall. Only the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (11 times) have played the Mets more in New York's home opener. ... Mets RHP Hansel Robles gave up an unearned run in two-thirds of an inning in his season debut. He was suspended the first two games for throwing at Phillies C Cameron Rupp last Sept. 30. ... Phillies 3B Maikel Franco, who was hit in the left forearm by a pitch on Thursday, didn't play. Manager Pete Mackanin said he would be in the lineup Saturday.

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