Salesmanship was required because no out had been achieved. Until the replay was loaded and shown, about 1,352 times, Lo Duca probably was the only person in Shea Stadium -- among 54,371 patrons, plus participants, security, media and those who didn't have to pay -- who knew he had dropped the ball after applying a tag to Alfonso Soriano. Only he knew to sell it, and he sold it hard and successfully in the Mets' 3-2 victory on Monday afternoon.
The out stood. Cliff Floyd to Jose Reyes to Lo Duca had produced the desired effect, even if a fourth-party assist was needed. The Nationals barely protested the 7-6-2 out, and they didn't complain until much later.
Umpire Tim Tschida, who had rotated from first base to cover the plate, didn't know for sure until he saw a replay 10 minutes after the game.
"It appears to be incorrect," he said upon first view.
And when ESPN analyst Jeff Brantley suggested the call had been accurate, Tschida said, "Sorry, Jeff."
So the Nationals were denied and eventually defeated. The Mets were only delighted.
"I'm a magician in the offseason," Lo Duca told Floyd.
"It's good to get a break," David Wright would say.
"Good for us," Billy Wagner said.
"I liked that play," Reyes said.
"What a game!" rookie Brian Bannister said. "If I had my pick of first games ..." And so it went around the Mets' clubhouse late Monday afternoon -- man after man embracing the Opening Day win and its many components -- Wright's home run, Xavier Nady's four hits, the 276th victory of Tom Glavine's career and Wagner's "use your defense" save.
It was left to Glavine to find the words that made it all seem better than it was.
"I'd rather be lucky than good," the southpaw said. "And, really, I'd rather be both."
As much as the Mets enjoyed themselves, they enjoyed their good fortune, too. Luck didn't enter into most of what they had done, but it made most of what they had done seem better.
Good fortune had visited them in the first game of their season. Just early enough. They were happy to move to one side to make room on the bench for the element that, they believe, didn't visit often enough last season.
"It's good to have a 10th man," Floyd said. "When you know you've been unlucky and then you get lucky, it puts a shine on everything you've done and picks you up."
At least until Wednesday and the second of 162.
For one day at least, the Mets were shining. They had played quite entertaining and pretty good baseball for nine innings, and they had something to show for it too, the 28th Opening Day victory in the 45-year history of the franchise.
Those who dared to look back to the dreadful Opening Day loss of last season knew they had moved to the other end of the spectrum for this one. But as Wagner said, "I wasn't here last year. This one was good, no matter what happened then."
The Mets couldn't imagine how they could have made it much better. Each participant made a contribution of note, though Carlos Delgado's was mostly spiritual -- a long loud foul home run that confirmed that Shea Stadium won't hold him this year, either.
The more tangible things were these:
Glavine, making his seventh Opening Day start -- third with the Mets -- provided a splendid all-around performance. Not only did he limit the Nationals to a run in six innings, he also had two hits, smartly avoided a rundown to let him eventually reach scoring position, and initiated a double play that ended his workday.
His pitching line was quite good too -- six hits, three walks and five strikeouts, the last two of which came in the fifth inning against Nick Johnson and Soriano after the Nationals had put runners on second and third with one out.
|"I'd rather be lucky than good. And really, I'd rather be both."|
|-- Mets closer Billy Wagner|
Reyes' flawlessly executed catch, turn and throw that cut down -- kind of -- Soriano.
The quick retrieval and strong throw by Floyd that initiated the play after Ryan Zimmerman had doubled into the left-field corner.
The quick cutoff and throw to second base by center fielder Carlos Beltran to cut down Jose Vidro for the final out of the day. The Nationals' veteran second baseman made an ill-fated attempt to reach second base although his hit off Wagner didn't reach the warning track.
Nady's 4-for-4 day. He had two doubles, two singles, an RBI and a run, and became the second player ever to begin his Mets career with four hits. Richie Hebner had four hits on Opening Day in 1979.
Anderson Hernandez's backhand stop and Derek Jeter-type jump and throw to first base, taking a leadoff single away from Johnson in the second.
Two bend-but-don't-break innings of relief by Aaron Heilman, who followed Glavine and wondered, "Am I going to leave this game with an infinity ERA?"
And Wagner's save. A hot ground ball that Wright handled, a strikeout and Vidro's would-be double.
As Wagner said, "I'd rather be lucky than good."
It did seem to work.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.