Mets execute opener strategy to perfection by holding Astros to one run over six innings

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Corey Hersch
·3 min read
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Jacob Barnes pitches during spring training
Jacob Barnes pitches during spring training

Jose Altuve. Michael Brantley. Alex Bregman.

With 12 All-Star games between them, those are three very scary hitters at the top of the Astros order, and no easy task for Jacob Barnes to handle as he prepared for what would be his lone inning of work.

The Mets dipped their toes into the opener waters on Saturday, and did so with much success. Barnes made quick work of the star-studded trio, striking out Altuve and Bregman around a Brantley groundout on a grand total of 16 pitches.

Lucchesi followed that up with 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball, the lone blemish coming on a solo home run from Bregman, the final batter of the game for the right-hander as Aaron Loup came on to finish the sixth.

The Mets went on to an 8-3 win on the back of that combination pitching performance (though a little help from the likes of Franisco Lindor, Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso didn’t hurt).

Suffice it to say, manager Luis Rojas was pleased with what he saw.

“That went really well,” Rojas said of the opener experiment. “I liked Barnes's pitch count. So if you have the ability to do that and then be available out of the bullpen the next day, that's pretty good. Also, if you have the ability to go a second inning, that's also pretty good. So a lot of good things happened with that today. It could be other guys [as an opener], as well, but that was a good first test.”

Neither Barnes nor Lucchesi had been a part of an opener combination before Saturday’s game, but both seemed open to the idea if the Mets opt for the route in the regular season.

“One of the biggest things is getting out there to do it first,” Barnes said. “Obviously, everyone is going to say yes to an opportunity. But the goal is to get out there and actually prepare for it. Now that I've just done it, I'm very comfortable with it. I thought I would be, but just going out there and doing the prep time makes a big difference.”

“I'll do whatever they tell me,” Lucchesi said. “I like starting, but if they want to do an opener they can do that. I'm just out there to pitch, do my best and try to help us win ballgames.”

Lucchesi said he felt “really great” throughout his appearance, and Rojas was especially impressed with the way he handled the vaunted Astros’ offense.

“I thought Lucchesi threw the ball really well,” Rojas said. “It was [Tomas] Nido's first game with him and I thought they did well going through that lineup. That's a tough lineup to navigate whether you're facing a lefty or a righty.”

Barnes said the opener trend is always something that seemed interesting to him as a relief pitcher, and it appears to him that it’s one that is here to stay.

“We've seen it over the past couple of years,” Barnes said. “We're always kind of curious as bullpen guys because we're so used to such little notice [coming into games]. Most of us are used to having one or two batters to get ready. So it's definitely something that's trending in the game and we're just going to have to get used to it.”

A pair of pitchers combining to allow one run over six innings against a lineup like the Astros? That’s something Mets fans won’t have a problem getting used to, either.