On April 6, 2015, the New York Mets controversially handed the ball to veteran Bartolo Colon on Opening Day. Bartolo did not let the fans down.
For the New York Mets, 2014 was all about Jacob deGrom. He broke into the big leagues in May at age 25, with many Mets fans still lamenting the loss of Matt Harvey due to Tommy John surgery. deGrom dazzled in his debut against the Yankees and, as we all know, went on to win the Rookie of the Year in 2014. So who was manager Terry Collins‘s choice to start Opening Day the next year?
Naturally, it was the 41-year-old Bartolo Colon.
At the time, this move raised eyebrows, with many writers wondering why Collins would go with the veteran Colon against the mighty Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals, rather than start Harvey or deGrom.
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It’s still puzzling to me, frankly, but despite deGrom’s ROTY season in 2014, he hadn’t yet been crowned “GOAT” status in Mets land, so perhaps Collins did not want to put too much pressure on him early in his sophomore season.
In any event, Colon was penciled into the pitcher’s spot in that day’s lineup, when the Amazins opened their season on a bright April afternoon in Washington.
The Mets were coming off of a rather pedestrian 79-83 record in 2014, still good enough for 2nd place in the NL East. The Nationals had finished the 2014 season as the clear division champions, soaring ahead of their competition with a 96-66 record.
But by Opening Day of 2015, the standings were even once again. The Mets had many other established veterans in their starting nine besides Colon, with Curtis Granderson and David Wright leading the way at the top of the lineup. Juan Lagares, fresh off of his 2014 Gold Glove season, started in center field.
Fan-favorite Wilmer Flores played shortstop, with no way to know that 2015 would be the year he would play (and cry) his way into the hearts of Mets fans forever. Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer, and Travis d’Arnaud rounded out the lineup for the Amazins that day.
Though the Nationals were the defending division champions and clearly favored to win the game, Colon held them in check. He pitched six sharp innings, allowing just one run and three hits while striking out eight. The one blemish on his scorecard was a home run allowed to Bryce Harper, which would be the only run the Nationals scored all afternoon.
The Mets’ offense did not fare much better against Scherzer, managing to eke out only four hits in the 7.2 innings he pitched. However, they did benefit from two errors by shortstop Ian Desmond, which gave them three unearned runs against Scherzer.
From there, the bullpen shut down the Nats for the rest of the game. Carlos Torres came on in relief of Colon in the 7th inning and pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 frame. Jeurys Familia, interestingly enough, did not pitch the 9th that day but rather came out in the 8th inning. He, too, did not allow a run.
If you’re wondering who on earth got the save for the Mets, it might take a while to run through your list of “obscure Mets relievers from the 2010s” and recall that it was actually Buddy Carlyle who finished the 9th inning by getting Nationals catcher (and future Met) Wilson Ramos to ground out to short. The Mets emerged the victors, by a score of 3-1.
This Opening Day contest proved to foreshadow many games of the 2015 season: not much offense, but dominant starting pitching and a “good enough” bullpen.
Colon went on to have a strong 2015 season and finished the year leading all NL pitchers in innings with 217. He also led the league by allowing an average of only 1.1 walks per nine innings.
In terms of “memorable 2015 games between the Mets and the Nationals,” this Opening Day game took a backseat to the unforgettable series in late July. Those three games featured the 12th inning “Wilmer walk-off” and a sweep by the Mets to ascend to a first-place tie in the division.
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However, this Opening Day win by the Mets was a satisfying way to start what would be a truly exciting season.