Michael Conforto heard a smattering of boos from the COVID-limited sellout crowd of 8,011 at Citi Field for Thursday’s home opener upon hitting into a double play to conclude the seventh inning. His next at-bat was more celebrated.
Batting with the bases loaded in a tie game in the ninth inning, Conforto leaned into the strike zone and took an Anthony Bass slider off his right elbow, sending the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Marlins.
Plate umpire Ron Kulpa ruled that Bass’ pitch clipped Conforto’s elbow guard. Marlins manager Don Mattingly argued the call – on replay it appeared Conforto leaned into the pitch – but was told the play was not reviewable.
Jeff McNeil’s game-tying homer against Bass leading off the ninth helped rescue the Mets, who had only four hits to that point. McNeil had started the season 0-for-10.
The Mets were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. They will hobble into Friday’s day off 6-for-35 (.171) with runners in scoring position this season.
In his Mets debut, Taijuan Walker lasted six innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Walker had thrown a simulated game last weekend in Washington to keep sharp, after the opening series was postponed. He was removed after 87 pitches Thursday. It was only the second career Citi Field start for Walker, who had last pitched in the ballpark with the Diamondbacks in 2017.
Jesus Aguilar slapped an RBI single in the sixth for the Marlins’ second run of the inning, putting the Mets in a 2-1 hole. Corey Dickerson doubled to bring in the first run, after Jon Berti singled leading off the inning.
Walker held the Mets hitless into the fifth. Brian Anderson singled with one out to end the early no-hit watch and Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s walk gave the Marlins a scoring threat before Walker retired Chad Wallach to escape the inning.
The Mets loaded the bases in the fifth, and Dominic Smith’s drive to center had potential to clear the fence. But Starling Marte raced to the 408-foot sign and caught the ball, limiting the damage to a sacrifice fly. The ensuing batter, Jonathan Villar, struck out against Ross Detwiler to keep the Mets’ lead at 1-0.
Miguel Castro and Trevor May were both used for the third time in four days. Each pitched a shutout inning before Edwin Diaz’s season debut. Diaz pitched a scoreless ninth with one walk and one strikeout to pick up the win.