Sep 28, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathon Niese (49) pitches during the 4th inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

2013 MLB Opening Day Series Preview: San Diego Padres @ New York Mets

Well, what we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. The Houston Astros beat the Texas Rangers 8-2 last night in their first game ever as a member of the American League to officially kick off the 2013 season, but today, the rest of Major League Baseball steps onto the field for the first time. The Padres (76-86 in ’12) will hope to continue their strong finish to the 2012 season, while the Mets (74-88 in ’12) are looking to continue their Opening Day dominance.

Edinson Volquez (11-11, 4.14 ERA in ’12) vs. Jonathon Niese (13-9, 3.40 ERA in ’12)

Volquez is entering his second season with the Friars after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds two winters ago. He had an up-and-down year in 2012, and the Padres are hoping he can be that ace at the front of the rotation that he was for Cincy back in 2008 (17-6 record, 3.21 ERA). The right-hander didn’t have a lot of fun pitching away from Petco Park, as he compiled a 5-6 record, 5.60 ERA, and 1.65 WHIP in 82 innings pitched (15 starts) on the road. The key for the Mets is to be patient and work deep counts against Volquez; last season, he owned a 3.03 ERA ahead in the count, but that number jumped to 6.10 when he fell behind.

Niese gets his first career Opening Day start, and there’s no doubt he’s excited to start up 2013 for the Mets at Citi Field. In the first year of a five-year pact he signed last spring, Niese had a career year, as a lot of people in the organization are looking for him to take another step forward in his development and lead this staff, especially now that Johan Santana is lost for the year. He’ll be hoping to continue New York’s good luck on Opening Day with another victory, and will be trying to mirror his month of April from 2012, where he went 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 25.2 innings pitched (4 starts)

Clayton Richard (14-14, 3.99) vs. Matt Harvey (3-5, 2.73)

Richard tied his career-high in wins for the Padres last season, and is hoping to continue his solid play as he’s slotted as San Diego’s number two starter in 2013. He mostly went under the radar, but he made spacious Petco Park look even bigger last year, producing a 1.57 GO/FO rate. In 123.1 innings pitched on the road in 2012, opposing batters hit .284 against Richard, but day games were his cup of tea, as he compiled an 8-4 record with a 3.08 ERA in 13 starts before the lights came on. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda will get an early test with a southpaw, as Richard sported a 2.84 ERA against left-handed hitters last year.

Harvey is beginning his first full season in the Major Leagues, and if what he did while in PSL is any indication (2-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 33 Ks in 27.1 IP), he’s ready to have a fantastic year. He’s determined to show he’s the real deal at the game’s highest level, and wants to prove that his great ten-start showing from 2012 was not a fluke. Even though he put together an impressive 1.88 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 4 home starts last year, he still hasn’t won a game in front of the Citi Faithful, and he’ll look to end that streak Wednesday night. He started nine of his ten games at night in 2012, and experienced the most success with the lights on, collecting all three of his wins at that time.

Eric Stults (8-2, 2.91) vs. Dillon Gee (6-7, 4.10)

Stults is another name that is not known by many baseball fans around the country, but he’s now getting his chance to prove himself with the Friars; he spent the majority of his time in the minor leagues as a starter, but didn’t fully start getting that same opportunity in the Majors until last season. He got 14 of his 15 starts after the All-Star break last season with San Diego, and impressed with a 7-1 record, 2.78 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP. Stults also performed very all on the road, holding hitters to a .237 average, and compiling a 2.54 ERA in 56.2 innings pitched.

This season will surely be different for Dillon Gee, as he will be starting his first season since getting a blood clot removed in his throwing shoulder. When he started throwing over the winter, he noticed how much stronger he was, and how much quicker he was able to recover from workouts, which would inevitably help him come back stronger in between starts. That injury cost Gee the entire second half of 2012, and he’s poised to stay healthy and try to keep the New York rotation stable. He has a reputation as a strike thrower, and performed to that last season, walking 29 hitters in 109.2 innings pitched, and was able to post a 3.90 ERA when falling behind in a count.

In 7 games last season, the Mets won the series against San Diego, taking four games. They were only able to do so thanks to winning three of four at Citi Field back in May, riding the performances of Santana and R.A. Dickey. Although New York’s all-time record against the Padres currently stands at 222-228, they are better at home, as they sport a 119-104 mark. The last time San Diego helped New York open up the season, Jody Gerut etched his name in Citi Field history, hitting a leadoff homer in the stadium’s first-ever game.

This will be the first game of many for David Wright as captain, and let’s hope Niese and company can make it a game to remember. The rest of the season may be iffy, but Opening Day is the one game I always feel confident about with the Mets, as they are 33-18 in this situation.

It should be a fun series, and finally, baseball is back! Let’s go Mets!

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Tags: 2013 MLB Opening Day David Wright Dillon Gee Jonathon Niese Matt Harvey New York Mets

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