Jonathon Niese stepped nicely into his new role as No. 1 starter for the Mets, and Collin Cowgill capped a successful New York debut with a grand slam in an 11-2 rout of the San Diego Padres on Monday.
Handed the opening day assignment in place of injured Johan Santana, Niese enjoyed a big afternoon with both his arm and bat. He breezed into the seventh inning against a Padres lineup missing slugger Chase Headley (broken thumb) and catcher Yasmani Grandal, suspended for the first 50 games after testing positive for testosterone.
Marlon Byrd had a pair of RBI singles and fellow Mets newcomer John Buck was in the middle of three rallies as New York improved baseball's best opening day record to 34-18 despite dropping its first eight openers.
The Mets have won 20 of their last 22 home openers.
Niese had a perfect day at the plate, tying his career high with two hits. He had an RBI single in the second off an ineffective Edinson Volquez (0-1), then drew a leadoff walk and scored in a three-run fourth.
David Wright received a warm ovation when he was introduced as the fourth Mets captain. He stole two bases and made a diving play at third base in his first game since signing a $138 million, eight-year contract — the richest in team history.
Byrd and Buck each had an RBI single in the third. Cowgill doubled to key the fourth-inning rally, which included a run-scoring groundout by Wright and an RBI single by Daniel Murphy on his 28th birthday.
Volquez, making his third straight opening day start after helping the Dominican Republic win the World Baseball Classic last month, was charged with six runs, six hits and three walks in three-plus innings. He dropped to 0-5 in six career starts against the Mets.
Cowgill, batting leadoff after winning the center field job this spring, hit his first career grand slam off Brad Bach in the seventh to make it 11-2. The only other opening day slam in Mets history was hit by Todd Hundley on April 26, 1995, at Colorado.
Cowgill was acquired from Oakland in a December trade. His drive to left gave the Mets their most runs since Niese beat Philadelphia 11-1 on July 3 last year.
With the Yankees hosting the rival Boston Red Sox across town, the Mets announced a sellout crowd of 41,053 at windy Citi Field, where the Padres won the ballpark's first game in 2009. The last time two New York teams opened at home on the same day was April 17, 1956, when it was the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, according to STATS
Niese (1-0) gave up Carlos Quentin's run-scoring single and Yonder Alonso's solo homer in 6 2-3 innings before walking off to a standing ovation.
Scott Rice, making his big league debut after spending 14 seasons in the minors, struck out two in a perfect ninth.