BOSTON — In a best-case scenario — remember those? — David Peterson would be four months into his first season at Triple-A. There wouldn’t have been even a thought about him spending even a day as a Met this year because he would be learning his craft in Syracuse.
Meanwhile — best-case, remember — the Mets were going to figure out a way to get enough work for six legitimate starters.
But what’s the saying about the best way to make God laugh?
Tell him your plans?
So Noah Syndergaard went down with Tommy John surgery, just as spring training 1.0 was winding down. And then Marcus Stroman went down with a torn calf muscle, just as spring training 2.0 was winding down. And even as late as Monday night, Mets manager Luis Rojas was trying to figure out what to do Tuesday, when the Mets needed to figure out a starter for their fifth game of the season.
And into the breach stepped David Peterson, 24, lefty, 6-foot-6.
“Once the game starts,” the erstwhile Oregon Duck said, “I have a job to do.”
The first pitch was a Uecker pitch — juuuuuuust a bit outside to Red Sox second baseman Jose Peraza. His second was scorched off the Green Monster, and in a strange quirk of this ballpark, the wall actually got in the way of what would probably have been a home run just about anywhere else, it was hit so hard.
It was hit so hard, in fact, that J.D. Davis was able to channel Carl Yastrzemski and play a perfect carom off the wall and throw Peraza out at second by about 10 feet.
Eventful start to the night.
“Not the way I would’ve drawn up my first big-league out,” Peterson said, laughing.
And then, what do you know: The nerves seemed to drift away. He struck out J.D. Martinez. He got out of the first inning unscathed. He threw 78 pitches, kept the Red Sox off-balance all night, threw 5 ²/₃ innings, allowed two runs, struck out three. The Mets won 8-3 and feel a lot better about themselves leaving this city than they did when they arrived 48 hours before.
“That’s his first outing,” Rojas marveled. “And it looked like he’d had many outings before. Just a solid outing.”
And for Peterson — wearing a number on his back, 77, that serves as a reminder of how improbable his 2020 path has been — it was something beyond that.
“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid. Making my first start, getting the win, I couldn’t ask for much more than that, being in a historical place like Fenway. It all came together. I’ll never forget this.”
It was hard to ask for anything more than that. These Red Sox aren’t quite what the Red Sox of recent vintage have been, but that’s mostly because of a pitching staff that really has to be seen to be believed. But the Sox lineup, even without Mookie Betts, is still formidable — Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers.
“That’s a tough lineup to navigate through,” Rojas said.
Didn’t matter. The kid found himself in trouble a couple of times, including bases loaded and none out in the third. Then he struck out Martinez, induced a double play from Devers, and that was really that.
“I’ve got to go after him,” Peterson said. “I knew I needed a strikeout. And I made my pitches.”
“The kid,” Rojas said, “wasn’t shying away.”
Said Robinson Cano, one of the Mets offensive stars: “You can’t ask for a better outing. He was filthy tonight.”
He was superb. He was more than the Mets could possibly have hoped for. You never know how these things are going to go for young players, especially young pitchers. But, then, it would have been impossible back in February to envision a lot of what’s already happened in this baseball season for the Mets and for the rest of the sport.
Young David Peterson will remember this. Maybe, if things go the right way for him the next 12 or 15 years, so will everyone else.
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