The New York Mets can’t wait to finally play in front of fans at home. The Miami Marlins can’t wait to hit the road.
A pair of National League East teams looking for an early season jump-start are scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon, when the new-look and new-era Mets host the Marlins in their home opener.
Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.70 ERA in 2020) is scheduled to make his debut with the Mets. The Marlins said they will counter with someone making his first big-league start — either right-hander Nick Neidert (0-0, 5.40 ERA in 2020) or right-hander Paul Campbell (0-0, 13.50 ERA this season).
Both teams dropped lopsided decisions in series finales Wednesday afternoon. The Mets spotted the host Philadelphia Phillies four first-inning runs and fell, 8-2, in the rubber game of a three-game series. The Marlins absorbed the final defeat in a three-game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals in a 7-0 loss.
The Mets were eager to get home even before losing the finale of their series to open the season, after their scheduled three-game set last week against the Washington Nationals was postponed due to the Nationals’ coronavirus outbreak. The matinee Thursday will mark the first time New York plays in front of fans at Citi Field since Sept. 29, 2019, when Dominic Smith hit a walk-off three-run homer to cap a come-from-behind 7-6 win over the Atlanta Braves in the season finale.
A pandemic-era sellout crowd of 8,492 — 20 percent of Citi Field’s capacity — is expected to turn out for the first home game for new owner Steve Cohen, who bought the team from the Wilpon family for $2.4 billion last Nov. 6, and for second-year manager Luis Rojas, who was hired in January 2020 after the Mets and Carlos Beltran parted ways due to the latter’s involvement in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
“It’s going to be a special excitement for the whole group,” Rojas said before Wednesday’s game. “I think we’ve been looking forward to this moment for a while now. I know it’s going to be special for fans to be there supporting their guys as well.”
Opening at home didn’t yield success for the Marlins, who were blanked twice and held to two runs or fewer two other times during a 1-5 start against the Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays. Miami went 11-15 at home and 20-14 on the road last season, when it reached the NL Division Series, and hasn’t finished over .500 at home since 2017.
“You don’t want to be a team that doesn’t play well at home,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We were pretty good on the road last year, it seemed like, so we’ll see what happens. But we’re going to turn the page quickly.”
Walker, who signed a two-year deal with the Mets in February after splitting last season with the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, lost his lone start against the Marlins on Sept. 23, 2017, when he gave up seven runs (three earned) over 3 2/3 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 12-6 defeat.
Neither Neidert nor Campbell has faced the Mets. Campbell made his big-league debut Saturday when he allowed three runs in two innings against the Rays.
–Field Level Media