K-Rod shuts door as Mets win opener

April 6, 2009 2:01:15 PM PDT
The Mets' new-look bullpen came up big in the first game of the season, as new closer Francisco Rodriguez shut the door on a 2-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds Monday.Daniel Murphy drove in both New York runs with a homer and a groundout, a memorable showing in his first big league opener on a raw, cold afternoon.

The Mets became known for meltdowns the last two seasons, blowing division leads in September. They tried to fix their biggest problem - the balky bullpen - by signing Francisco Rodriguez and trading for J.J. Putz at the winter meetings, bringing in two All-Star pitchers with a history of success closing games.

The first time out, they were nearly perfect.

Johan Santana (1-0) went 5 2-3 innings, extending his streak without a loss since July 9, and the bullpen didn't allow a hit the rest of the way. Putz gave up a walk in the eighth. Rodriguez retired all three in the ninth, which was a huge problem last season when Santana pitched. The left-hander watched the bullpen blow five of his leads in the ninth inning last year.

Cincinnati managed only three hits overall. The Reds' run was scored by Darnell McDonald, a 30-year-old outfielder with a total of 21 career games in the majors. He singled off Santana in the sixth and scored on Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly.

Murphy went him one better.

The 24-year-old outfielder hit a solo homer in the fifth off Aaron Harang, who lost a career-high 17 games last season and opened this season with another one. Murphy, the least-experienced player in the lineup, also drove in another run with a groundout in the sixth.

It was 37 degrees with light rain at first pitch, which was pushed back by 13 minutes because of conditions that felt even worse to players accustomed to 80-degree days in spring training.

During one cloudburst, first base umpire Angel Hernandez hiked up a blue facemask, covering everything except the tip of his red nose and his squinting eyes.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who grew up in Ontario, said it was too cold for a Canadian to play ball.

"I never headed outside when it was anything like this," Votto said. "You play hockey in this weather, not baseball."

There was ice - the semi-frozen stuff that fell from the sky intermittently and turned everything in the pitchers' favor. There was nice defense at work as well.

Mets right fielder Ryan Church made a sliding catch of Ramon Hernandez's sinking liner in the second inning, bobbling the ball off his leg before getting it firmly in his glove. Church then threw to first to double up Edwin Encarnacion.

Reds right fielder Jay Bruce threw out David Wright at the plate as he tried to score from second base on Carlos Beltran's single in the fifth inning, getting him even though his throw slowed considerably on the wet infield grass.

Notes: Santana has gone 18 starts without a loss. ... The Mets are 31-17 on opening day, the best winning percentage in the majors. They lost their first eight openers, too. ... McDonald played CF in place of Willy Taveras, who has the flu. ... RH Bronson Arroyo, who had a flare-up of carpal tunnel syndrome during spring training, threw before the game and felt good. The Reds decided to let him make his originally scheduled start on Thursday against the Mets instead of resting for the week. "It felt like I was throwing twice as hard as I normally do," Arroyo said. ... Reds Hall of Famer Frank Robinson rode in the pregame parade through downtown, along with current pitchers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.