Atlanta center fielder Ender Inciarte displayed impressive instincts and hustle, willing himself around the bases to give the Braves a lead they would preserve en route to notching their second four-game winning streak of the season with Saturday night’s 4-3 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
Inciarte sped into second base to begin the eighth inning with a double and then alertly took third base when right fielder Curtis Granderson caught Jeff Francoeur’s fly ball and unhurriedly threw it back toward the infield. Inciarte then raced home with the decisive run when Addison Reed’s wild pitch rolled just a few feet behind Mets catcher Rene Rivera, who was ready to apply the tag before the ball was knocked out of his glove.
“That was two of the gutsiest, greatest baserunning plays I’ve ever seen, I think,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s just kind of taking advantage of the situation and not taking anything for granted and just letting things play out and reacting.”
The Mets, who have lost five of their past seven games, grabbed an early three-run lead, with Yoenis Cespedes homering in the third inning and Wilmer Flores highlighting a two-run fourth with another solo shot off Braves rookie right-hander Aaron Blair. But Atlanta then tallied one run over each of the next three innings. Francoeur hit a two-out homer in the sixth off Steven Matz, who allowed two runs over six innings, and Tyler Flowers opened the seventh with a game-tying homer off Jim Henderson.
“This is a tough one,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You can’t lose these kind of games. You got to win these games. When times are tough, these are big games.”
After the Braves dented the scoreboard with Chase d’Arnaud’s two-out RBI single in the fifth, Francoeur and Flowers hit their home runs within a span of six pitches. This marks just the seventh time this season the Braves have hit two home runs in a game, but they’ve now done so three times within their past nine games. Flowers now stands with Freddie Freeman as the only Atlanta players who have hit more than three homers.
After Flores reached on an error by shortstop Erick Aybar, Loney followed with a double off Jim Johnson, who was pitching because Atlanta’s closer, Arodys Vizcaino, had pitched the previous three days. Third-base coach Tim Teufel opted to send Flores home, but the throw from the cutoff man Aybar beat Flores to the plate, preventing the tying run from scoring. On the ensuing at-bat, Ty Kelly hit a deep fly ball that likely would have been enough to plate Flores had he remained at third.
“I’m always ready,” Flores said. “I was running as hard as I could, because you never know when they are going to send you.”
After allowing at least six runs in three of his past five starts, Blair took advantage of the chance to get at least one more. Blair surrendered the solo homers to Cespedes and Flores but retired each of the final eight batters he faced and issued just one one walk while completing six innings for the first time since April 29.
Matz exited after the sixth with a one-run lead, but Henderson did not allow that advantage to last long. On his first pitch out of the bullpen, Henderson fired a 91-mph fastball to Flowers that was promptly launched 424 feet into the seats in left field, and he was charged with his second blown save of the season.
Julio Teheran will take the mound when this three-game series concludes on Sunday afternoon. Teheran has posted a 2.13 ERA over his past 11 starts. This will be the first time the right-hander has faced the Mets this season. Thunder Radio will bring you the broadcast of the contest beginning at 12 PM as part of the Atlanta Braves Radio Network.