Best Mets pitching performances in Opening Day history

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Anthony McCarron
·5 min read
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Jacob deGrom 2019 Opening Day
Jacob deGrom 2019 Opening Day

Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets on Thursday, which is only appropriate since he’s on quite a run -- overall, certainly but also as an Opening Day starter.

DeGrom has thrown 11 consecutive shutout innings over the 2019 and 2020 openers and will look to add to that total against the Washington Nationals.

If (when?) he does, we’ll add to this list of top Opening Day outings by Met hurlers.

There’s plenty of Tom Seaver here -- he started every opener from 1967-77 and also made a nifty New York return in 1983 -- as well as Dwight Gooden and Johan Santana, with some Jerry Koosman and Bob Ojeda thrown in, too. There’s even a Craig Swan.

It wasn’t easy to whittle it down to this -- our original working list had 27 different games on it. A bunch of those were recent terrific, six-inning stints, such as Tom Glavine’s work in both 2006 and 2007 and Noah Syndergaard’s six scoreless frames in 2017. We left some of those out in the interests of presenting a manageable selection.

Let’s start with the best one, because it’s the only one of its kind: Gooden’s Opening Day, four-hit shutout on April 5, 1993.

No other pitcher in Mets history has thrown a shutout in an opener. Since the game has changed so much, maybe no one ever will. It wasn’t dominant Doc, but he did spoil the first game in Colorado Rockies history by beating them, 3-0, in front of 53,217 at Shea.

“That is one of my favorites,” says Gooden, who struck out four and walked one. “That was when I was finally all the way back from rotator cuff surgery. The Rockies were an expansion team, but they had some veteran guys on that team -- (Andres) Galarraga, Dante Bichette. There was a good atmosphere -- it was a new team, we were extra pumped. Back then, you wanted to go all nine innings.

“That was my best Opening Day start.”

And here are some of the others in Mets history...

April 7, 1970

It wasn’t Seaver at his blazing best, but he still delivered eight innings while allowing three runs in the first opener after the Miracle of 1969. He did not figure in the decision, but, for the first time in franchise history, the Mets won on Opening Day, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-3, in 11 innings. Ron Taylor got the ‘W’ and Tug McGraw earned a save.

April 15, 1972

Seaver threw six shutout innings in a 4-0 victory over the defending World Series champion Pirates and McGraw added three scoreless in relief.

April 6, 1973

In the first of three consecutive matchups with fellow future Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton, Seaver bested the lefty, throwing 7.2 scoreless frames in a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. McGraw (natch) did the rest for another save.

April 8, 1975

After Seaver’s difficult ‘74 season, this certainly was uplifting: He threw a complete game, allowing one run and six hits, while striking out nine and walking two to top Carlton and the Phils, 2-1. Seaver was on his way to his third NL Cy Young Award.

April 9, 1976

Different ace, same result. In this opener, Seaver allowed one run in seven innings in a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Expos and their No. 1 starter, the always underrated Steve Rogers.

April 7, 1978

Seaver didn’t start this one -- anyone remember why not? But Jerry Koosman was dynamite, throwing a complete game in a 3-1 victory over Rogers and Montreal.

April 10, 1980

In the midst of an unsightly Mets Era, Craig Swan at least provided an Opening Day win, allowing two runs over seven innings in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

April 5, 1983

Seaver, who had been dumped in the 1977 “Midnight Massacre” trade, returned to New York with a flourish after five-plus years in Cincinnati with the Reds. He threw six shutout innings against the Phillies and Carlton (who else?) in a 2-0 victory. The 46,687 fans at Shea went crazy at Seaver’s return. “I got goosebumps watching him walk in,” says Mets team historian Jay Horwitz. “The great Tom Seaver was back.”

April 8, 1986

Gooden started off a championship season in style, overwhelming the Pirates with a sharp, six-hit complete game in a 4-2 victory.

April 7, 1987

Strange day, right? The Mets raised the 1986 championship banner at Shea, a joyous occasion. But Gooden, the ace, didn’t start the game because he was in drug treatment at the time. But Bobby Ojeda starred, allowing one run in seven innings in a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh.

April 8, 1991

In a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia, Gooden allowed one run and six hits over eight innings.

March 31, 1998

Bobby Jones threw six shutout innings and then Greg McMichael, Dennis Cook, John Franco, Mel Rojas and Turk Wendell combined for eight scoreless frames of relief in a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia.

April 1, 2002

Al Leiter allowed only an unearned run and four hits in six innings in a 6-2 victory over the Pirates.

March 31, 2008

The Mets had made a mega-trade for Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana in February and their first real-game look at the lefty was terrific. In the first of three consecutive Opening Day assignments for the Mets, Santana allowed two runs in seven innings in a 7-2 victory over the then-Florida Marlins. Overall, Santana was 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA in four openers for the Mets, allowing only 12 hits in 23.2 innings.

April 6, 2015

The Mets’ most recent World Series season started like this: Bartolo Colon threw six stingy innings, allowing one run, to outduel Max Scherzer in a 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.

March 28, 2019

DeGrom, in his first career opener, threw six shutout innings and struck out 10 to beat Washington and Scherzer, 2-0. In 2020, he threw five one-hit innings in a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.