Snow pushes back Mets-Phillies series opener

NEW YORK – Mother Nature apparently decided Monday she instead wanted to see a pair of Opening Day starters Tuesday afternoon in New York.

The first contest of a scheduled three-game series between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies was postponed six hours before first pitch because of an early-morning snowstorm that blanketed Citi Field. It will be made up as part of a single-admission doubleheader July 9.

Both teams will push Monday’s scheduled starters — the Mets’ Matt Harvey and the Phillies’ Ben Lively — back to Tuesday.

New York will then skip fifth starter Seth Lugo, who was scheduled to pitch Tuesday, to bring back Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard on five days rest in Wednesday afternoon’s finale. Syndergaard is slated to face Philadelphia’s Opening Day pitcher, Aaron Nola, who was already penciled in to make the start.

While the Phillies (1-2) never had to trek to Citi Field, the Mets (2-1) had a productive snow day. On social media, New York posted a picture of a snowman built by catchers Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki, infielder Phil Evans and pitcher A.J. Ramos.

The Mets also got some work done inside, where a pair of injured players, left-hander Jason Vargas and outfielder Michael Conforto, each moved closer to returning to the active roster. Conforto, who is recovering from a left shoulder injury suffered last August, was the batter during a simulated game thrown by Vargas, who is coming back from a broken right hand.

Conforto could return as soon as Thursday, when the Mets begin their first road trip by visiting the Washington Nationals, while Vargas hopes to make his season debut by the middle of the month.

On Tuesday, the Mets will hope to see a rejuvenated Harvey, who continued a two-year descent last season by going 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA in 19 games (18 starts). The ERA was the highest by a Mets pitcher who threw at least 90 innings in a season. Harvey has posted a 5.78 ERA the last two seasons, the fifth-highest mark in baseball among pitchers who threw at least 180 innings.

Harvey looked better this spring, when he posted a 4.50 ERA in five Grapefruit League starts while striking out 18 batters in 20 innings.

“I think he’s going to go out there and throw the ball over the plate and give himself a chance,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Sunday afternoon. “His confidence is really high right now. He looked great in spring training and he has good stuff.”

A good start by Lively (4-7, 4.26 ERA in 15 starts last year) could take some heat off embattled rookie manager Gabe Kapler, who raised eyebrows inside and outside his clubhouse by using 21 pitchers in the first three games and calling on left-hander Hoby Milner on Saturday without first asking him to warm up. That game ended with utility infielder Pedro Florimon throwing the final inning of a 15-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Kapler remained upbeat following the defeat.

“I am remaining 100 percent positive,” Kapler told reporters. “I believe in this club. I believe in the men in that clubhouse. I believe in our coaching staff and there’s no chance that I’m going to let three games, two of them tougher, derail what we’re trying to accomplish here, which is to go to the postseason in 2018, which I believe we will do.”