JUPITER — For the first time in nearly a year, Mets fans in South Florida got a chance to get up close and personal with the team, watching in-person for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the world last March. But they’ll have to wait just a bit longer to see New York’s new-look lineup score a run.
Both the Mets and hosting Miami Marlins managed five hits apiece in New York’s Grapefruit League opener, at Roger Dean Stadium, but it was the Marlins that won 2-0 on Jesus Aguilar’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
But the Mets can take solace in solid outings from a variety of pitchers, including scoreless innings apiece from Harol Gonzalez, a non-roster invitee and Monday’s starter, and Sean Reid-Foley, acquired in a January trade with the Blue Jays.
“It’s good to see the guys, on the first game, trust their defense, have a plan, keep the ball down, mix [pitches],” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “(Catcher) [Tomas] Nido did a good job calling the game, pairing with the guys. He called a few off-speeds in hitters’ counts to keep them off balance. So it went really good. It was a good first day for pitching.”
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Reid-Foley was a 2014 second-round pick out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville and has made 21 MLB appearances, including 13 starts, since his call-up in 2018.
“It’s funny, you play against these guys throughout the minor leagues,” he said. “And now, they’re teammates. It wasn’t a very hard transition. It’s good. I mean, you’ve got five of the best starters in the league. It’s a very top-caliber starting rotation. I get to learn from them, and then obviously you’ve got veterans in the bullpen that are guys you can learn from.”
In the third, it was Stephen Tarpley’s turn to toss a scoreless frame. Another new face for the Mets, Tarpley pitched for the Yankees in 2018 and ’19 and made 12 appearances for the Marlins last season.
“The first three innings were pretty good,” Rojas said. “They kept the ball down consistently. I thought they came with a plan. They executed. They pitched to contact and the guys played well behind them.”
The Mets collected four of their five hits in the first four innings, with Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara giving up two hits in two innings. But the Mets’ prized offseason acquisition, Francisco Lindor, went 0-2 with a chopped groundout in the first inning followed by a flyout to left in the fourth.
Though his offensive potential wasn’t on display, Lindor gave fans a small taste of his defensive prowess in the fourth inning, ranging to his left to snag a hard-hit ground ball over the middle before firing to first base for the out.
“It’s game time. It’s game day. It really was,” said Lindor, a four-time All-Star in Cleveland. “We spend the whole offseason training and we finally get to play a game. Whether it counts or not, it’s still a game.”
The Mets showed some rustiness on the base paths Monday. Brandon Nimmo led off the first with a single, but was thrown out after a wide round at first base.
Then in the fourth, Kevin Pillar was caught trying to stretch a single into a double, thanks to a laser-throw from the Marlins’ Starling Marte.
“They were aggressive mistakes,” Rojas said. “It was a perfect throw from Marte but we’re sending ourselves a message to be aggressive.”
Ryley Gilliam was the only blemish on an otherwise solid pitching performance by the Mets. The 24-year-old surrendered a triple to Marte and then that two-run homer to Aguilar, but bounced back to retire the next three batters.
“Gilliam was the only one that got a little scattered at the beginning of his outing, but then after the homer was able to settle,” Rojas said. “The stuff was there.”