NEW YORK -- Ian Krol, Chaz Roe and Eric O'Flaherty had trouble finding the plate during a six-run seventh inning that sunk the Braves during their 6-0 Opening Day loss to the Mets at Citi Field on Monday afternoon.But there was reason to wonder if the damage created by this
NEW YORK -- Ian Krol, Chaz Roe and Eric O'Flaherty had trouble finding the plate during a six-run seventh inning that sunk the Braves during their 6-0 Opening Day loss to the Mets at Citi Field on Monday afternoon.
But there was reason to wonder if the damage created by this relief trio might have at least been minimized had catcher Tyler Flowers chosen to stand in front of the plate to field Ender Inciarte's latest laser from center field. Flowers' decision to stand behind the plate helped Wilmer Flores score the game's first run and prolong an inning that negated all Julio Teheran had done while matching zeros with Noah Syndergaard for six innings.
"If I had been in a conventional [position] in front of the plate, it would have been a tough play," Flowers said. "You're talking about an in-between short hop. Maybe I get it, maybe I don't. So looking back, he would have been out if maybe I had [the ball]. And, if I don't catch it, we're not talking about it."
There was a lot that went wrong as Krol, Roe and O'Flaherty combined to issue five walks and surrender three hits during the seventh inning. But there's a chance those struggles wouldn't have surfaced had Flowers recorded the out Inciarte attempted to create when he fielded Asdrubal Cabrera's one-out single to center field and fired an accurate throw that Statcast™ clocked at 93.7 mph.
"Priority one is to set yourself in a position to read the hop and eliminate the in-between hop," Flowers said. "I like to be behind the plate to give myself a margin for error that way and create your own hop, all the while anticipating wherever the plate is in relation to you getting everything going that way."
After Inciarte's throw skipped near the edge of the grass in front of the plate and found Flowers' glove, the Braves' catcher lunged forward and tagged Flores. Home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg ruled Flores out, but the call was overturned after the Mets challenged, giving them a 1-0 lead.
"I was surprised he was behind the plate," Flores said. "I don't know the reason. Good for us."
Braves manager Brian Snitker said, "I don't know what happened there," and then indicated he wanted to look at the play again before providing further comment on the decision made by Flowers, who repeatedly said he believes positioning himself behind the plate provides him more flexibility to react to bad hops and also avoid those situations where his momentum might take him backwards and add to the difficulty of getting back to the plate to apply a tag.
"I think in the long haul, the way we've been playing it and the way I play it, I think it's the smarter play," Flowers said. "I think it gives me the opportunity to secure the ball more often than not and give myself a chance to make a tag play vs. not even coming up with it."
Unfortunately for Flowers and the Braves, this was one of those instances where by the time he received the ball it was too late to gain the favorable ruling on a bang-bang play that might have had a different result if the ball was secured a split second earlier.
"Looking back at it, I would have played it a little more do-or-die, but you've got to get the ball first," Flowers said. "You can stand in the way or do whatever you want to do, but without the ball, he's safe."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.