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Mets catch break, then power past Braves on Opening Day

Mets catch break, then power past Braves on Opening Day

Win 6-0 in front of 44,384
Mets catch break, then power past Braves on Opening Day
New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard on the mound in the first inning at Citi Field.
Photographer: Damon Winter/The New York Times

NEW YORK — It was the bottom of the seventh inning Monday, in a scoreless opening day pitchers’ battle at Citi Field, when the New York Mets’ Wilmer Flores raced home from second on a single by Asdrubal Cabrera.

Actually, raced home is not what Flores did. He can hit with power, he can play multiple positions, but he cannot run well. Still, on this play, his right foot tapped the top corner of home plate just ahead of the tag of Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers. Or so it seemed.

However, in the judgment of the plate umpire Jeff Kellogg, Flowers’ glove got there first and he called Flores out, momentarily deflating an announced crowd of 44,384.

Fortunately for the Mets, Kellogg did not have the last word. Mets manager Terry Collins challenged the call, the umpires reviewed the video and Flores was ruled safe. Instead of a 0-0 score and two outs, it was 1-0 with one out. The Mets, taking advantage of their good fortune, proceeded to pile on five more runs for a 6-0 lead that held up as the final score.

A Mets fan — or player — looking for good omens certainly found one in the Flores play. In September, in a tie game against the Braves, Flores tried to score from second on a similar play, was out by a mile and injured himself sliding into the catcher. He missed the rest of the season.

This time he was uninjured, as well as safe, and his teammates took care of the rest, with the key blow a bases-clearing double by Lucas Duda.

The scoring outburst backed the tantalizing pitching of Noah Syndergaard, who delivered six scoreless innings with his sinking fastballs and confounding breaking balls. He made some of the Braves hitters look foolish with his combination of 100-mph fastballs and 94-mph sliders. He struck out seven and walked none.

Starters are eased into the season with limited pitch counts, so perhaps Syndergaard could have pitched another inning Monday. But because of a blister on the top of the middle finger of his throwing hand, Syndergaard left the game after tossing 86 pitches.

A stout bullpen then completed the shutout. Hansel Robles and Fernando Salas each tossed a scoreless inning. Robert Gsellman, the team’s fifth starter, pitched the ninth because his first start of the season is not scheduled until the weekend.

Injuries hovered over the Mets last season and nearly derailed them until they staged a late-season rally to grab a wild-card spot. This season, they are confident they have a deeper roster that can better deal with setbacks. Still, injuries again hover over the roster, including Steven Matz, David Wright, Seth Lugo and others. Three-fifths of the current rotation — Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler — either had surgery last season or was still dealing with post-surgery rehabilitation.

The Mets will be in no rush for the return of Matz, who is dealing with left elbow tightness that will keep him out at least three more weeks. Gsellman, who surprised in his rookie debut in the second half of 2016, is now a member of the rotation. Wheeler also is part of the rotation, for the moment, although he will have an innings limit this season.

As for the position players, they are well situated to deal with the absence of Wright at third base. The opening day lineup was so deep that Jay Bruce and Duda, two players who have hit 30 homers in a season, were hitting sixth and seventh, respectively.

“We all have it in our minds that we can win a World Series,” Mets left-fielder Yoenis Cespedes said during the final week of spring training. “We showed it in 2015.”

On Monday, the Mets showed enough to suggest they will be a formidable club. And the safe call on Flores was just the start.

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