By Zach Gewelb
The New York Mets’ 6-0 Opening Day victory over the Atlanta Braves was overshadowed a bit when the team announced that starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard left the game early due to a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
The Mets’ ace was effective when he was in the game despite the injury, limiting the Braves (0-1) to just five hits while striking out seven in six scoreless innings, but the decision to remove him was made after the blister popped.
“It was kind of a blood blister probably around the second inning or so,” Syndergaard said after the game. “Probably around the fifth [inning] it burst. It was causing me a little bit of pain.”
Collins elected to go to the bullpen with Hansel Robles in the seventh inning in order to preserve Syndergaard’s health.
“He was not going to be done until he came off with the blister and then we said that was going to be enough,” Collins said.
Aside from that, everything seemed to go right for the Mets at Citi Field in front of an electric sellout crowd of 44,384 fans.
“When you have a crowd like this, you cannot do anything but get excited,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “The noise, the energy, (the fans) are knowledgeable, they know the players. This is a great place and a great atmosphere and it was a great way to kick the season off.”
New York (1-0) scored all six runs in the seventh inning, taking the lead on an RBI single from No. 2 hitter Asdrubal Cabrera off Braves reliever Ian Krol and never looked back. Wilmer Flores — who entered the game as a pinch hitter and reached base on a fielder’s choice — was initially ruled out at the plate after a terrific throw from Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte, but Collins challenged the call, which was overturned.
“We have a new rule that you only get a certain amount of time to decide [whether to challenge] and I thought my 15 seconds were running out, so I thought I had nothing to lose and I just took a shot at it,” Collins said.
Starting catcher Rene Rivera singled to open up the inning before Flores hit into the fielder’s choice. Reyes followed with a walk and after Cabrera’s RBI single, Krol exited the game in favor of Chaz Roe. The righty walked left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to load the bases before giving way to reliever Eric O’Flaherty.
Granderson followed with a sacrifice fly to center, bringing in Reyes from third to give the Mets a 2-0 advantage. Second baseman Neil Walker drew a walk to load the bases again, this time for right fielder Jay Bruce. O’Flaherty walked Bruce, which sent Cabrera home to increase the Mets’ lead to 3-0.
Duda followed with a bases-clearing triple, giving the Mets a commanding 6-0 lead.
“I think it’s a big hit for Lucas, after missing all that time last year,” Collins said.
O’Flaherty walked Travis d’Arnaud, who pinch ran for Rivera earlier in the inning before giving way to Jose Ramirez. A passed ball put runners on second and third, but Flores grounded out to short, ending the inning.
Fernando Salas came in to pitch the eighth and retired the Braves in order.
Robert Gsellman came in to pitch the ninth and allowed back-to-back hits to begin the inning. He struck out Nick Markakis with men on second and third for the first out. He induced an unlikely 1-3-6 double play to end the game and secure the 6-0 victory for the Mets.
It was a pitcher’s duel until the fateful seventh inning, as Braves starter Julio Teheran matched zeroes with Syndergaard through the first six frames.
Robles earned the victory with his scoreless seventh, improving to 1-0 on the season. Krol (0-1) took the loss.
Cabrera led the Mets with three hits in five at-bats, including the go-ahead RBI single. He also scored and added a stolen base.
“He’s about as calm as anybody you’ve ever been around,” Collins said. “He just knows what to do.”
The Mets have now improved to a Major League best 36-20 on Opening Day and have gone 21-3 in their last 24 Opening Days at home.
The two teams will face off again Wednesday after a scheduled off day Tuesday. Jacob deGrom will take the ball for the Mets, while former Met Bartolo Colon will oppose him.
Colon received the largest applause of any player during pre-game introductions Monday afternoon, though the crowd likely won’t be as loving when he’s on the mound Wednesday night.
The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. as the Mets look to keep momentum on their side.
“You hope so,” Collins said. “We’ve got a long way to go. Day One, you hope it sets that tone.”
Collins announced that Syndergaard will have his next start pushed back from Saturday to Sunday following the blister injury.
“He’s gonna pitch Sunday. We’re going to bring Gsellman back on Saturday,” Collins said. “We’ll give him an extra day because of that.”
Collins announced after the game that Seth Lugo is going to be out a bit longer than anticipated.
“We lost Seth Lugo for a period of time,” he said. “He’s going to miss some time with his elbow. It’s going to be a couple weeks for sure.”
Lugo pitched in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico and competed for a spot on the big league roster before the Mets shut him down at the end of Spring Training.
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe