James Loney’s three-run home run provided enough cushion for the Mets to weather a six-run flurry produced against Steven Matz and claim an 8-6 win over the suddenly pesky Braves at Turner Field on Friday night.
After Loney’s homer off Aaron Blair provided the Mets an 8-0 lead in the fifth inning, the Braves tallied six runs in the bottom half of the frame against Matz, who had retired 11 of the 12 batters he’d faced through the first four innings and ended up allowing six earned runs over 4 1/3 frames. Atlanta recorded just two hits against three Mets relievers, including closer Jeurys Familia, who recorded the game’s final four outs with the help of some heads-up defense. One of those was a sensational game-ending pick at first base by Loney after a wild third strike that scooted away from Travis d’Arnaud.
“He made two real good plays over there tonight, besides hitting the homer,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “So it was a good night for him.”
The Braves had won seven of their previous eight games, including each of the four played against the Mets within this span. But they were unable to overcome the struggles endured by Blair, who allowed eight earned runs and seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. New York secured its third win in its past four games after Atlanta put two on with none out in the ninth.
Third baseman Wilmer Flores dove to catch Chase d’Arnaud’s sacrifice-bunt attempt, but the ball popped out of his glove. This simply set the stage for Flores to step on third and throw to second to complete a double play. The wacky game ended when a replay review confirmed d’Arnaud’s throw to first base beat Jace Peterson, who was attempting to reach on a dropped third strike.
“These guys don’t get down and they’re never out,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s about as good of a trait as they can have. The way they hung in there tonight, I had a good feeling something good was going to happen.”
To become the first Met to convert 25 straight save opportunities to open a season, Familia had to record the game’s final four outs — the first of them with a runner in scoring position. The closer began by inducing an inning-ending groundout from Adonis Garcia in the eighth, then used two fine defensive plays behind him to escape a two-on, no-outs jam in the ninth. That was good for Familia’s 25th save, snapping a tie with Armando Benitez for the longest streak to start a season in franchise history.
The Braves recorded eight hits through their first nine at-bats of the fifth inning and three hits within their other 27 at-bats of the game. Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes lost a Nick Markakis fly ball that resulted in one of three consecutive doubles that began the fifth. Brandon Snyder’s opposite-field three-run home run was the most costly blow delivered against Matz.
“Obviously, being down eight runs is tough, but nobody is trying to give up,” Snyder said. “To see the guys come back and start rallying like that, it kind of picked the fans up and got everybody into it. We came up a little short, but I think it just kind of shows that we’re here to play and we’re going to fight until the last out.”
A Mets team that entered the night with a Major League-leading 53.2 percent of its runs via homers scored five against Blair without the benefit of a long ball. That changed when Loney clubbed a three-run homer off Blair with one out in the fifth, staking the Mets to an 8-0 lead. Blair was out of the game one batter later.
“For me, it’s getting good pitches to hit,” Loney said. “Wherever they go, they go. There’s never been a hit that I didn’t like.”
Loney’s three-run home run
Loney’s three-run home run
James Loney connects and drives a three-run home run to right field to give the Mets an 8-0 lead in the top of the 5th inning
Patience is running thin: Snitker indicated the club will further discuss whether to give another start to Blair, who has allowed at least six runs in four of his past seven starts. Loney got hit with an 0-2 curveball during a two-run second inning and was behind in the count 0-2 before drilling both his double in the fourth and his homer in the fifth. The Braves’ rookie hurler has struggled with command in the past, but Snitker felt he threw too many “hittable” strikes when ahead in the count during this game.
“You look at his ball-strike ratio and it was pretty good,” Snitker said. “But you can be wild in the strike zone, too, and miss your mark. I think he was. I saw the 0-2 breaking ball to Loney [on the home run]. It was [more like an] 0-0 pitch, not an 0-2 pitch. It was just things like that. The command with the strikes just wasn’t good, and he got hurt.”
Though Jacob deGrom has quietly rounded into form with a 2.81 ERA over his last five starts, a lack of offensive support has left him 0-3 in those games. He’ll look to snap a personal nine-game winless streak when the Mets and Braves return to Turner Field on Saturday for a 6:15 p.m. ET game. Atlanta will counter with Julio Teheran, who has posted a 1.89 ERA over his past 12 starts. Teheran tossed a one-hit shutout at Citi Field on Sunday. He has completed 16 consecutive scoreless innings against the Mets dating back to last year. Thunder Radio will bring you the broadcast as part of the Atlanta Braves Radio Network beginning with the pregame show at 6:00 PM.