NEW YORK - David Wright, Johan Santana, Jason Bay. Each of them delivered.
This was exactly what the New York Mets were looking for on opening day.
Wright hit a two-run homer, Santana pitched six effective innings and the Mets finally solved Josh Johnson, beating the Florida Marlins 7-1 on Monday for their fifth consecutive win in season openers.
“I think it was an all-around good effort,” Wright said. “We caught the ball, we pitched well and obviously had some timely hitting. You can’t ask for much more than that, first game of the season.”
Newcomers Bay, Rod Barajas and Gary Matthews Jr. each got two hits for New York, which improved to a major league-best 32-17 (.653) on opening day. Manager Jerry Manuel also got three scoreless innings from his beleaguered bullpen, which he said was his biggest concern entering the season.
For one game, at least, the Mets looked ready to bounce back after they stumbled to a fourth-place finish in the NL East last year. And they matched their total of opposite-field homers last year at Citi Field.
“This is the type of baseball we have to play day in, day out,” Manuel said. “We cannot afford to have any lapses.”
Manager Fredi Gonzalez and the Marlins think they can be a surprise contender again this season, but this sloppy performance wasn’t a very good beginning.
Johnson allowed four runs and five hits over five-plus innings in his first opening-day start, dropping to 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA in 10 career starts against New York. Cameron Maybin struck out swinging three times and Florida committed three errors during the Mets’ four-run sixth.
“I felt good coming out of the bullpen and got out there and it was just uphill,” said Johnson, who just faced the Mets on Wednesday in his final spring start because the flu altered his training schedule.
Santana looked healthy after finishing last season on disabled list, allowing just four hits while improving to 4-1 with a 3.56 ERA in five career opening-day starts.
“It felt pretty good,” he said. “We worked over spring training, waiting for this day for many months and finally to have a chance to go out there and do it felt pretty good.”
Jorge Cantu hit an RBI double in the sixth to cut New York’s lead to 2-1, but Santana got Ronny Paulino to fly out to center with runners on first and second to end the inning.
“Johan was pretty tough today,” Gonzalez said.
Fernando Nieve replaced Santana and got six outs before Francisco Rodriguez finished just one day after returning from Venezuela, where two of his brothers were injured in a car accident.
The Mets desperately need a fast start to wash away the bad taste from last season’s 70-92 finish, when they were ravaged by injuries and made a handful of embarrassing mistakes while tumbling to their worst record since they went 66-95 in 2003.
The crowd of 41,245 for Citi Field’s first opening day made it clear it hadn’t forgotten what happened in 2009, booing erratic left-hander Oliver Perez and the training staff during pregame introductions. Manuel, second baseman Luis Castillo and reliever Sean Green also got mixed receptions.
Wright sent a charge through the crowd when he punched a 1-0 pitch from Johnson over the wall in right to give New York a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The All-Star third baseman hit a career-low 10 homers last season, including five at home during the Mets’ first season at their spacious ballpark. That included their only opposite-field, over-the-fence home run at Citi Field, on Aug. 5 in the first inning against St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse.
Jeff Francoeur also drove in two runs for New York, which opened the year with shortstop Jose Reyes, All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran and first baseman Daniel Murphy on the disabled list. Pinch-hitter Angel Pagan delivered an RBI single in the sixth.
“The best part of it was it was a little bit of everybody,” said Bay, who got a $66 million, four-year contract from the Mets as a free agent. “We’re not really a team that’s built relying on one or two guys.”
Defending NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez and Gaby Sanchez had two hits apiece for the Marlins.
Notes: Mets SS Jose Reyes stole two bases and played four innings in the field in an extended spring training game against New York’s Class A affiliate. On the DL because of a hyperactive thyroid, Reyes went 1 for 3. ... The wind wreaked havoc on a couple balls hit to the outfield. “It seemed like every inning it was blowing a different direction,” Maybin said. “It was tough.” ... INF Ruben Tejada and RHP Jenrry Mejia of the Mets are the youngest players in the majors at 20 years old. Mejia, who is 16 days older than Tejada, is the youngest pitcher to make New York’s opening-day roster since Dwight Gooden in 1984. Tejada is the Mets’ youngest position player on their opening-day roster since Tim Foli in 1971.
HBT: Carlos Ruiz was lifted from Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after straining his right hamstring while running the bases in the bottom of the second inning.
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