NEW YORK (AP) The last time everyone saw Noah Syndergaard on the mound at Citi Field, he was throwing 99 mph and matching zeros with Madison Bumgarner in a win-or-go-home playoff game.
If recent history is any indication, Syndergaard could be in for another low-scoring duel Monday when he makes his first opening day start for the New York Mets against Julio Teheran and the Atlanta Braves.
”We’ve got five aces on the team that can come in and do the job. I am just fortunate enough to lead us off and hopefully set the tone for the rest of the season,” Syndergaard said.
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Teheran, a two-time All-Star, is scheduled to pitch his fourth consecutive season opener. He’ll attempt to get the rebuilding Braves off to a positive start against a team he’s tormented lately.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.73 ERA in his past five outings versus the Mets, a stretch that included a scoreless streak of 29 2/3 innings and a one-hit shutout at Citi Field on Father’s Day last year.
His teammates got pretty comfortable in Queens, too. Despite a last-place finish in the NL East a year ago, the Braves have won six straight games at Citi Field – sweeping their final two series there in 2016.
”Before, I didn’t like it. Now, it’s one of my favorites,” Teheran said late last season about the Mets’ home ballpark.
New York is coming off its second consecutive playoff appearance, which ended quickly with a 3-0 loss to Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in the National League wild-card game last October.
With slugger Yoenis Cespedes and almost the entire team back following an injury-riddled season, expectations could not be much higher for the Mets. This could be the last home opener in New York for several key components, too: Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Jose Reyes and Jay Bruce are among those entering the final year of their contracts – not to mention 67-year-old manager Terry Collins.
”It’s time to get it going,” Collins said Friday. ”I think getting off to a good start will be very, very important for us.”
Two familiar faces are unavailable for the opener and beyond.
Mets captain David Wright begins the season on the disabled list following neck surgery last June, and All-Star closer Jeurys Familia will sit out the first 15 games after accepting a suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
”We’re going to miss him,” Reyes said. ”We wish him the best and that those two weeks go by fast because we really need him here.”
Reyes is ready to fill in at third base – the last Mets player besides Wright to start a season opener at the hot corner was Ty Wigginton in 2004.
Setup man Addison Reed figures to assume closer duties, with Fernando Salas potentially shifting from the seventh inning to the eighth.
Strong-armed backup catcher Rene Rivera will likely be teamed with Syndergaard, who struggles mightily to control the running game.
”It feels like an older brother to me, kind of. He is extremely honest,” said Syndergaard, who went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts last season, earning his first All-Star selection. ”I am extremely blessed to have him on this team.”
Brian Snitker enters his first full season as manager of the Braves, who begin with an eight-game road trip before the home opener in their new stadium, SunTrust Park, on April 14 against San Diego.
NOTES: RHP Bartolo Colon, a fan favorite with the Mets from 2014-16, makes his Braves debut Wednesday night at Citi Field. ”I’m very happy and excited to go back there and get the opportunity to play against my ex-teammates,” Colon said through a translator. ”A lot of them I consider to be like a brother to me.” … Teheran is 7-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 15 career games against the Mets, 14 starts. He was 7-10 with a 3.21 ERA overall last year. … In addition to Wright, the Mets placed RHP Seth Lugo (right elbow inflammation), OF Juan Lagares (left oblique), LHP Steven Matz (left elbow inflammation) and OF Brandon Nimmo (right hamstring) on the 10-day DL, retroactive to March 30.
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta and AP freelance writer Adriano Torres contributed to this report.
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