ATLANTA (Ticker) -- If first impressions mean anything in baseball, the
New York Mets
have found a gem in Kaz Matsui.
Matsui went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBI in his major league debut and
finally beat his former team as the Mets cruised to a 7-2 victory over the
in the season opener for both clubs.
Signed as a free agent last winter after nine years with the Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League, Matsui had a disappointing spring, hitting just .192 and leaving many skeptical about his chances of standing out in the major leagues.
But the seven-time Japanese All-Star erased doubts immediately, crushing
's first pitch of the game 429 feet over the center field wall to become the 14th player in major league history to hit a home run on the first pitch of his first career at-bat.
"It was more than I ever imagined," Matsui said through an interpreter. "If a strike came on the first pitch, I was taking a swing anyway."
Matsui added an RBI double in the second inning and drew a walk with the bases loaded in the third to put the Mets ahead, 6-2.
"Obviously, he wouldn't have the reputation he does if he couldn't hit," Ortiz said. "(But) I don't think you can tell by the hits he got off of me. Any major leaguer would have hit a ball thrown right down the middle."
Matsui became the first player to hit his first career homer to lead off a game on Opening Day since Emmett Mueller of the
in 1938. He also became only the third player in Mets history to homer in his first at-bat, joining
and Benny Ayala.
"He's a fine, outstanding young man," Mets manager
said. "For him to get off to that kind of start is almost a fairy tale. It's outstanding."
After stroking a two-out double in the fifth, Matsui earned the ultimate sign of respect by drawing an intentional walk in the seventh.
The Mets pounded away at an ineffective Ortiz (0-1), who was chased from the game after walking
with the bases loaded and one out in the third.
Ortiz continued what had been an abysmal spring, where he was 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA, by surrendering six runs - three earned - and seven hits. It was Ortiz's shortest outing since July 26, 2002 against the
Los Angeles Dodgers
"It's not the way we wanted to start," Braves manager
said. "Russ just got too many balls down the (middle)."
Meanwhile, Glavine (1-0) was extremely effective, pitching six strong innings. The veteran lefthander surrendered two runs and four hits to defeat his former team for the first time in five tries.
"When you beat your old team, there's some gratification there," said Glavine, who was 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA last season against the team in which he spent the first 16 years of his career. "Especially since I pitched against them so poorly last year."
also homered for the Mets, who improved to 27-16 on Opening Day.