By John Schweibacher
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The New York Mets begin their 50th anniversary season with a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves.
The Mets have the best winning percentage on Opening Day in the history of Major League Baseball.
Here’s the list of the top Opening Day records, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:
This season’s opener with Atlanta will be third ever between the Mets and Braves, and just the second between the two clubs in New York. Back on April 15th, 1966, the Mets hosted the Braves, who playing their first game since moving from Milwaukee, at Shea Stadium.
New York was in search of their first opening day win in club history and took a 2-1 lead into the 9th inning after Cleon Jones homered in the bottom of the 8th to the Mets in front. But the Braves rallied with two runs in the top of the 9th, capped by a squeeze bunt by Denis Menke, and hung on in the bottom of the inning to defeat Jack Fisher and the Mets, 3-2.
The Mets and Braves have played two season openers in Atlanta; a 6-4, 10-inning New York win at Turner Field in 2001 on Robin Ventura’s two-run home run and a 7-2 victory there three years later led by Kaz Matsui’s leadoff homer and three runs batted in.
This week’s opener will be the sixth in Mets history to be played on a Thursday. The Mets are 5 and 0 all-time on Thursday Opening Days, their best mark on any day of the week:
|Day of Week||W-L||Last Year of Mets Opener|
Here is a look back at the Mets’ previous five Thursday openers:
· April 7th, 1977: Mets 5 @ Cubs 3. Down 2-0 in the 6th inning, the Mets rally for four runs, capped by a two-run single by John Stearns against Bruce Sutter (yes, closers did come into games earlier back then). Tom Seaver goes seven innings for the win in his 10th consecutive Opening Day start for the Mets defeating future Met, Ray Burris.
· April 5th, 1979: Mets 10 @ Cubs 6. The Mets outlast the Cubs at Wrigley, batting around in a five-run 7th inning against Chicago starter Rick Reuschel, Willie Hernandez and Donnie Moore. Jesse Orosco makes his major league debut in the 9th inning, retiring Bill Buckner for the final out of the game.
· April 10th, 1980: Cubs 2 @ Mets 5. In their only Thursday home opener to date, the Mets break a 1-1 tie with the Cubs with a four-run, 6th inning rally, capped by a two-run single by Mets starting pitcher Craig Swan, who collects his only career Opening Day win.
· April 9th, 1981: Mets 2 @ Cubs 0. Lee Mazzilli (in the final opener of his 1st Mets stint) and Rusty Staub (in the 1st opener of his 2nd Mets stint) hit solo home runs in the 4th inning off of Rick Reuschel and Pat Zachry, Tom Hausman and Neil Allen combine on a seven-hit shutout.
· April 8th, 1982: Mets 7 @ Phillies 2. George Foster made his Mets’ debut with an RBI double and a run scored in the top of the 1st and Bob Bailor went 3-for-4 with three RBI’s to help Randy Jones get the win after an April blizzard pushed this opener to Thursday.
The Mets will wear a patch to honor Gary Carter during the 2012 season. Carter passed away on February 16th after a courageous battle against brain cancer.
Carter made his Mets’ debut on April 9th, 1985 and delivered the game-winning home run in a 6-5, 10-inning win over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was one of three walk-off Opening Day wins in Mets’ history:
· April 8th, 1975: Phillies 1 @ Mets 2. Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 9th, Felix Millan begins the inning with a single, just the third Mets hit of the game against Steve Carlton. After John Milner walks, Joe Torre, in his Mets’ debut, follows with a game-winning single to left.
· April 9th, 1985: Cardinals 5 @ Mets 6 (10). Tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th, Gary Carter homers off of Neil Allen to give the Mets the win. It was Carter’s 6th and final Opening Day home run of his career but it was not his only one at Shea Stadium. On April 7th, 1978, Carter homered against Jerry Koosman in the Mets’ 3-1 Opening Day victory over the Expos.
· March 31st, 1998: Phillies 0 @ Mets 1 (14). The Mets’ first March season opener comes on a record-breaking 82-degree afternoon at Shea. The 14-inning marathon ends on Alberto Castillo’s one-out, bases-loaded single off of future Mets reliever Ricky Bottalico.
Last season, Brad Emaus was the Opening Day second baseman for the Mets.
Emaus lasted just 13 more games for the Mets in 2011 before being released. Emaus’ 14 games are the fewest played by any Mets Opening Day second baseman in club history.
Here are the Opening Day starters at each position who played the fewest career games for the Mets:
· Catcher: Tim Spehr 1998 21
· 1st base: Dick Stuart 1966 31
· 2nd base: Brad Emaus 2011 14
· Shortstop: Tony Fernandez 1993 48
· 3rd base: Don Zimmer 1962 14
· Left Field: Gene Clines 1975 82
· Center Field: Gary Mathews, Jr. 2010 38
· Right Field: Ken Henderson 1978 7
· Pitcher: Mike Hampton 2000 33
Do you think the Mets will notch another Opening Day win? Make your prediction in the comments below!