NEW YORK -- The hiring of Mickey Callaway as Mets manager this winter was about so much more than Callaway alone. Following a disappointing season in 2017, the Mets sought a culture change. They wanted open lines of communication. They craved open-mindedness, fresh thoughts, a willingness to embrace new ideas.
They wanted the type of guy willing to bat his best hitter second and his pitcher eighth, if that's what works.
Relying on his coaching staff, a computer program and six weeks of field research, Callaway did just that in his first game as manager. The results were optimal. Yoenis Cespedes drove home three runs from the two-hole, Amed Rosario scored twice and knocked in two more runs batting ninth and Noah Syndergaard leaned on that support in a 9-4 Opening Day win over the Cardinals at Citi Field on Thursday.
"It took all of Spring Training to try to figure that one out," Callaway said of his lineup, laughing. "I don't have that much time on the next one."
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For now, Callaway will take the result, which made him the first Mets manager to win his inaugural game in New York since Jeff Torborg in 1992. Syndergaard also won his first game in 11 and a half months while the Mets improved to 37-20 on Opening Day, easily the best mark of any current franchise.
On this day, however, the Mets were far less interested in history than in the future, following an offseason focused on Callaway and his staffs -- coaching, training, strength and conditioning and more, all of them bursting with new names. Determined to alter the processes that resulted in 92 losses last season, the Mets also imported a slew of new players, including first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who gave the Mets the lead for good with a fifth-inning double.
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Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez walked six batters to take the loss, allowing five runs -- four earned -- in 4 1/3 innings. Though Martinez's batterymate, Yadier Molina, provided him an early lead with a two-run homer in the second inning, Martinez allowed 11 baserunners before departing.
Syndergaard's only other trouble came courtesy of Jose Martinez, who went 3-for-3 with a solo homer, an RBI single and two runs scored off Syndergaard.
"I was just trying to keep it simple," Martinez said. "He throws like 120 mph."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Batting around: Gonzalez's first hit as a Met, a line-drive double down the right-field line, gave them their third and final lead of the game. It also sparked a five-run rally for the Mets, who sent 10 men to the plate in the inning. After Syndergaard bunted from the eight hole, Rosario lined a two-run single to left. Brandon Nimmo, Cespedes and Jay Bruce all followed with singles, the latter two driving in additional runs.
Consider it indicative of what the Mets did all afternoon, batting Syndergaard eighth as a way to shield rookie Rosario in his first full season, while also giving Cespedes and Bruce more potential chances to bat with men on base. Cespedes came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning, driving home two with a single. Nimmo, Gonzalez and catcher Kevin Plawecki all reached base four times.
"I just wanted to make sure the guys were in a good position to succeed," Callaway said. "We wanted to just make sure that we thought everything out when we set that lineup. We'll try and do that every single time."
Met killer: Making his 14th consecutive Opening Day start behind the plate, Molina cranked a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole in the second inning, giving the Cardinals their only advantage against Syndergaard. Molina set the Cardinals franchise mark for consecutive Opening Day starts at a single position -- passing Lou Brock, who started in left field for 13 straight seasons from 1967-79 -- catching every opener since his first full season in 2005.
"You get a blank canvas every year. There's a lot of optimism and a lot of hope. As far as this room goes, there's a ton of talent, too." -- Bruce
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Molina's 14th consecutive Opening Days starts behind the plate are tied for second all-time, behind only Ray Schalk, who made 15 straight for the White Sox from 1913-27. Molina trailed only Stan Musial (18) and Brock (15) in Cardinals history for consecutive Opening Day starts at any position.
Plawecki's third-inning double clocked in at 111.6 mph, according to Statcast™, making it his hardest-hit ball since 2015. The Mets are using Plawecki and Travis d'Arnaud in a timeshare this season, seeking production out of both catchers.
Mets: Following an off-day Friday, Jacob deGrom will take the mound Saturday for a 1:10 p.m. ET rematch at Citi Field. Had a bout of back stiffness not slowed him early in Spring Training, deGrom would have been the Mets' Opening Day starter after setting career highs in starts, innings and strikeouts last season.