NEW YORK – Ghosts were everywhere at Citi Field on Saturday.
Above the outfield fence. On the giant scoreboard. Stitched into Kodai Senga‘s glove.
And the Miami Marlins looked a little mystified at the plate once again.
Senga won his fantastic home debut and the New York Mets got long balls from Pete Alonso and slumping Eduardo Escobar in a 5-2 victory over Miami.
With fans hanging ghost signs on a railing in left-center to mark Senga’s strikeouts, and ghost-fork animations popping up on the ballpark’s new videoboard, the Japanese rookie with the disappearing “ghost forkball” fired six innings of three-hit ball. The only run he allowed came on a leadoff homer by Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the sixth.
“Felt pretty normal going into it,” Senga said through a translator. “Obviously, very grateful and I feel very warmed and welcomed. Hopefully next time I can put up more ghosts.”
Wearing a Mets blue-and-orange mitt with an image of a ghost and a pitchfork, Senga (2-0) walked three and whiffed six. Four strikeouts came on his “ghost fork” – including all three batters in the second inning.
“When they had the Senga and the ghost logo up there, I thought that was sick,” Alonso said. “And super well-deserved, because he’s got something that’s extremely unique.”
All eight of Senga’s strikeouts came on that nasty forkball when he won his major league debut Sunday in Miami. The right-hander signed a $75 million, five-year contract with the Mets in December after pitching for 11 seasons in Japan with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
“I mean, he’s got all of his family back over at home. And for him to perform the way he has and for him to have the poise and discipline and for him to execute the way he has, it’s really special,” Alonso said. “It’s been really fun to watch.”
Senga mixes his “ghost fork” with a 96-98 mph fastball, and Mets manager Buck Showalter noted the effective use of his cutter to get back in counts Saturday.
“He’s got a lot of weapons that hitters have to prepare for,” Showalter said.
John Curtiss retired cleanup batter Jorge Soler with the bases loaded to preserve a three-run lead in the seventh. Curtiss worked a perfect eighth and David Robertson breezed through a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save this season in place of injured closer Edwin Díaz.
Luis Arraez had an RBI single for the Marlins, and Chisholm made two outstanding catches at his new spot in center field.
“He’s getting better every day he plays, and the more he plays center field the better he’s going to get. Again, it takes a little bit of time,” Miami manager Skip Schumaker said. “You see what kind of athlete he is. I mean, he’ll make some plays that nobody else can make out there.”
One day after the Mets drew 12 walks in a 9-3 win, Jeff McNeil walked with the bases loaded in the first to force in the first run.
Alonso chased Trevor Rogers (0-2) in the fifth with a two-run shot, his fourth homer in the last three games and fifth this season. Rogers also lost to Senga last weekend.
“I’ve been doing a really good job, especially the past few games, of staying in my area and then capitalizing on stuff when it is there,” Alonso said. “I’m really happy how I’ve stuck to my process.”
McNeil also doubled on his 31st birthday leading off the sixth and scored on the homer by a pumped-up Escobar, who began the day batting .083 with one RBI.
“When you get that result where you hit the home run, you get excited because you want to appreciate that moment,” Escobar said through a translator.
New York (5-4) has not made an error this year, the longest stretch to begin a season in franchise history.
The crowd of 42,306 marked the first time in Citi Field history (since 2009) that the first two home games of a season have been sellouts.
Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings was a late scratch from the lineup when his back “kind of locked up right before the game,” Schumaker said. Nick Fortes started instead, and Stallings was available off the bench.
Marlins: LHP Braxton Garrett moves back into the rotation Sunday in the series finale, starting in place of injured Johnny Cueto. The seventh overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft, Garrett was 3-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 17 starts for Miami last season. He made one relief appearance in the majors this year, allowing two runs and six hits over three innings April 1 against the Mets.
Mets: Showalter said Francisco Álvarez will make his first start behind the plate since getting recalled from the minors. The 21-year-old Álvarez is one of the top-ranked prospects in baseball. Carlos Carrasco (0-1) pitches for New York after giving up five runs, four hits and four walks over four-plus innings in his season debut Monday at Milwaukee. He is 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 10 career starts against Miami.