Mets a Hit (by pitch) in fans’ return to Citi Field
Before Opening Day, it had been 557 days since fans had been allowed into Citi Field. Fortunately, the Mets treated them to a walk-off win.
As fans approached the gates in Citi Field for the first time in 557 days to watch the New York Mets, there was excitement in the air. Even as white tents peaked out in the distance where COVID tests were being administered, nothing could have ruined the feeling of hope a team’s first home game brings each season.
Not since Sept. 29, 2019, had fans been allowed to return to watch the Mets play at Citi Field Since then, a lot has happened for the Amazin’s. Multibillionaire Steven Cohen now owns the team and has promised a new era for the organization.
Living up to the promise, under his watch the team has retained starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, signed relief pitcher Trevor May and catcher Brian McCann, and traded for super star shortstop Francisco Lindor.
For players and coaches, emotions were high after an 8-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies the night before. They simply could not wait to come home and play in front of their supporters.
“We got in last night and the feeling of getting home and coming in this morning and watching the stands and having the fans there supporting us, it’s exciting,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said in his pregame conference. “We’re looking forward to it and we’re ready to go.“
Pete Alonso expressed the same excitement about having the “Flushing Faithful” back in the stands. He even concluded his conference call with a resounding, “LFGM!”
A Mets-Merizing Ending
The scene inside of the stadium took some time to get used to. With pods of people socially distanced and no vendor in sight, individuals could be heard clearly.
To begin, the atmosphere was jovial. Taijuan Walker eased some nerves by entering the fifth without allowing a hit. That same inning, the team provided some security with a run.
Then, the wheels came off and the Mets surrendered their slim 1-0 lead. With plenty of failed opportunities to capitalize, the sparse crowd began to boo.
In came the birthday boy Jeff McNeil to lead off in the bottom of the ninth inning. Trailing 2-1, McNeil wanted to focus on getting a good pitch and driving it.
Showing great patience at the plate, McNeil saw four pitches from Marlins pitcher Anthony Bass. On the fifth pitch, he got a 95 mph sinker over the meat of the plate, driving it into the right field seats.
“That was one of my biggest moments as a Met,” McNeil said of his game-tying home run. “The fans pumped me up.”
This blast started off a rally, with three of the next four hitters getting on base to load the bases for Michael Conforto. Knowing that Bass likes to keep the ball down with his sinker, Conforto was looking for an up pitch.
After seeing the count go to 1-2 after five pitches, Conforto appeared to go into -what he called “battle mode.” The next pitch, an 83.9 mph slider, hung over the plate and grazed Conforto’s elbow guard for a walk-off hit by pitch.
Replays appeared to show Conforto leaning into the pitch, which led to the Marlins challenging the call. The play stood as there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call.
“From my point of view, it was a slider and I may have turned out of habit and reaction and it skimmed my elbow guard,” Conforto said. “A win is a win, but honestly I’d like to have used my bat for sure.”
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