New York Mets: Freddie Freeman
The New York Mets, who aim to use this series against the Atlanta Braves to catapult themselves back into relevance, squandered a late lead but ultimately rallied for a 4-3 walk-off win in 11 innings on Monday at Citi Field.
Curtis Granderson produced a game-tying, two-out, solo home run in the eighth inning, and the Mets scored the winning run three innings later on Ruben Tejada's two-out RBI single off Anthony Varvaro.
Tejada also had the Mets' last walk-off hit, on May 11 against Philadelphia (also in the 11th inning).
The Mets (40-49) pulled to within nine games of the first-place Braves (49-40) in the NL East.
Wacky ninth: Eric Young Jr. ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice against Shae Simmons to strand the bases loaded and end the ninth inning, but how the Mets got there left Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez ejected and Mets manager Terry Collins perhaps worthy of admittance to the bar.
With the score tied at 3, Eric Campbell singled to open the frame. Juan Lagares then bunted, and umpire Sean Barber ruled Campbell out at second base, though a throw to first base for a double-play bid was too late.
However, Collins complained that Andrelton Simmons pulled his foot off second base before accepting the throw (which television replays supported).
"Neighborhood plays” are excluded from replay review, but Collins convinced the umps to confer and then go to video anyway. The ruling from the home office came back safe, which placed runners at first and second with no outs.
Gonzalez again argued and was ejected. He clearly believed the play was not reviewable.
In order for it to be considered a “neighborhood play,” the fielder must have acted to avoid a collision, which arguably wasn't the case, with Simmons pulling his foot off the bag to accept the throw at second. Perhaps that was Collins' winning argument.
Crazy eighth: Vic Black, Josh Edgin and Jenrry Mejia combined to allow three eighth-inning runs, as the Mets failed to hold a 2-0 lead after receiving seven scoreless innings from starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Black turned the two-run lead over to Edgin with Freddie Freeman on third base and two outs. Things quickly unraveled.
Edgin fired a wild pitch that sailed above Jason Heyward’s head and allowed Freeman to scamper home, which pulled the Braves within a run.
Given the series’ importance, Collins then turned to Mejia for a four-out save. Instead, the closer surrendered a game-tying RBI double to Chris Johnson off the top of the center-field wall. After an intentional walk to New Jersey native Tommy La Stella, rookie Christian Bethancourt served a go-ahead RBI single into right field.
Mejia suffered his second blown save in 10 chances. The other was June 7 at San Francisco.
Edgin had retired the first batter he faced in each of his previous 23 appearances -- a franchise record to begin a season.
Made the most: The Mets mustered only four hits through eight innings but made them count. Travis d'Arnaud had a second-inning double that plated Eric Campbell, who had reached via walk. David Wright homered the following inning against left-hander Mike Minor. Then, trailing 3-2 with two outs in the eighth, Granderson homered against Luis Avilan to even the score. Daniel Murphy followed Granderson’s homer with a single that chased Avilan.
The Braves had retired 15 straight batters between Wright’s and Granderson’s long balls, with Minor retiring 13 straight to close his seven-inning outing.
d'Arnaud has reached base in all 11 games since returning from Triple-A. Wright is hitting .395 (32-for-81) against southpaws this season.
No Dice: Matsuzaka tossed seven scoreless innings in his longest start of the season but was deprived of his first win since June 10.
Matsuzaka allowed two baserunners in each of the first three innings but repeatedly escaped unscathed. His final line: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K. He threw 100 pitches and departed with a 2-0 lead.
With Dillon Gee ready to return from the disabled list, Matsuzaka might have been reassigned to the bullpen this week had Jonathon Niese not landed on the disabled list. Matsuzaka had surrendered five runs in each of his previous two starts. His previous season high had been six innings, which he had accomplished in three starts.
Struck: Carlos Torres was struck on the bare hand with a liner in the 11th but remained in the game after a visit from the trainer.
What’s next: Jacob deGrom (1-5, 3.77 ERA) opposes right-hander Julio Teheran (8-5, 2.29 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsTommy La Stella, a native of Closter, N.J., has taken over at second base for the Braves.
Monday: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 3.72) vs. LHP Mike Minor (2-5, 4.73), 7:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday: RHP Jacob deGrom (1-5, 3.77) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (8-5, 2.29), 7:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: RHP Dillon Gee (3-1, 2.73) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (7-5, 3.93), 7:10 p.m. ET
Thursday: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-7, 4.04) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (8-6, 3.67), 7:10 p.m. ET
Braves short hops
• With a 3-1 victory Sunday at Turner Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks snapped Atlanta’s season-high nine-game winning streak. The Braves had been bidding for their third straight series sweep, after winning four straight at Philadelphia and then three games against the Mets at Turner Field. The bullpen allowed one earned run in 22 2/3 innings during the winning streak.
• Gerald Laird returned to the starting lineup Friday after missing last week’s Mets series to rest a strained right oblique. Christian Bethancourt handled the catching duties against the Mets and figures to continue to get the bulk of the starts, even with Laird now available. The rookie has performed solidly since his call-up nine days ago, hitting .292.
No. 1 catcher Evan Gattis (.290, 16 HR, 39 RBIs) landed on the DL on June 29 with a bulging disk in his back. He subsequently received an epidural injection and remains sidelined. Gattis continues to experience tightness.
• Center fielder B.J. Upton had a career-high 11-game hitting streak snapped Sunday. The hitting streak coincided with becoming the team’s leadoff hitter.
• Reigning NL Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons was installed in the No. 2 spot in the batting order beginning June 27. He is hitting .340 (17-for-50) in 12 starts in that slot.
• Right-hander Julio Teheran, first baseman Freddie Freeman and closer Craig Kimbrel will represent Atlanta in the July 15 All-Star Game at Minnesota. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been selected to serve on NL manager Mike Matheny’s staff.
Freeman has played all but two innings for the Braves this season.
Kimbrel struck out all three batters he faced in recording last Tuesday’s save against the Mets. It marked the fifth time this season and 24th time in Kimbrel’s career that he faced at least three batters in an appearance and struck out each one. Kimbrel has struck out 43 percent of the batters he has faced in his career, the highest percentage in major league history among relievers with at least 150 saves. Billy Wagner ranks second at 33 percent.
Kimbrel’s 89.7 career save percentage (166-for-185) ranks third all time among relievers with at least 150 chances, trailing only Eric Gagne (91.7 percent) and John Smoltz (91.1).
• The Braves are the youngest team in the National League. Their average age on Opening Day was 27 years, 255 days.
• Dan Uggla (.163, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 39 Ks in 129 at-bats) has been relegated to the bench. He has started only two games since May 23. Uggla is earning $13 million this season. He also is under contract for 2015 at $13 million.
Rookie Tommy La Stella -- a Closter, N.J., native and product of St. Joseph High School in Montvale -- has taken over the position. La Stella, 25, got off to a quick start. He then became mired in an 0-for-23 skid until rebounding.
La Stella (.294) had been installed as the leadoff hitter beginning June 18, but he subsequently was moved to No. 2 and then No. 7. He has three straight multi-hit games. La Stella spent his freshman year of college playing at St. John’s before transferring to Coastal Carolina.
• Right-handed reliever David Carpenter was activated from the DL on Wednesday. He had landed on the DL on June 17 with a strained biceps. Ex-Mets reliever Pedro Beato, who had been promoted to replace Carpenter, landed on the DL two days later with a right elbow strain.
• Mike Minor is 0-2 with a 4.46 ERA in his last eight starts. He allowed four runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Mets last week.
Even the best have hiccups.
Entrusted with a two-run lead, Familia committed one of the Mets’ three costly errors in a four-run eighth as the Atlanta Braves rallied for a 5-3 win Monday at Turner Field.
The Mets (37-46) fell a season-high eight games behind the division-leading Braves and are at nine games under .500, matching their low-water mark for the season.
The Mets fell to 33-5 when ahead after seven innings.
Leading 3-1, Familia surrendered inning-opening singles to Justin Upton and Jason Heyward. He then coaxed a would-be double-play comebacker from Chris Johnson. However, Familia bounced the throw to Ruben Tejada covering second base and everyone was safe.
With the bases loaded and none out, Jersey native Tommy La Stella then sent a run-scoring single up the middle. A second run scored on the play, tying the score at 3, when center fielder Juan Lagares could not cleanly field the ball, for a costly E-8.
Later, with the bases loaded and two outs, Andrelton Simmons sent a routine chopper to third baseman Eric Campbell. The ball popped out of Campbell’s glove and his ensuing throw to first base was late, allowing the Braves to take the lead.
Dana Eveland subsequently entered and issued a bases-loaded walk to force in another run.
The Mets entered the day with 15 double-play misplays and errors, tied with the San Diego Padres for the most in the major leagues, according to ESPN Stats & Information’s Mark Simon.
Wild thing: Zack Wheeler issued five walks and hit a batter, but managed to limit the Braves to one run in 6 1/3 innings and stood in position for the win until the eighth-inning meltdown.
Wheeler had tossed 83 pitches through four innings and looked headed for a short outing.
He then got a double play in a nine-pitch fifth and began to get more efficient.
With Wheeler coming off a career-low two-inning outing against Oakland in which he tossed only 48 pitches, and with him due to get an extra day of rest before pitching again Sunday, Terry Collins extended the right-hander.
With the Mets holing a 3-1 lead, Wheeler returned to the mound for the seventh inning with his pitch count already at 104. Wheeler surrendered a leadoff single to Christian Bethancourt, then pinch hitter Jordan Schafer sent a deep shot to left field that Chris Young ran down.
At that point, Wheeler departed -- and things got interesting.
Vic Black got B.J. Upton to ground into a potential inning-ending double play, but Tejada could not handle the grounder, which was generously scored an infield single. With two on and one out, Black coaxed Simmons to fly out.
Collins then returned to insert Josh Edgin to face the dangerous Freddie Freeman.
Edgin is now 21-for-21 this season in retiring the first batter he faces. Freeman flied out to left field as the Braves stranded two baserunners and the Mets maintained a two-run lead.
Wheeler’s final line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP. He threw 113 pitches.
Leading man: Curtis Granderson, again in the leadoff spot after a cameo Sunday at cleanup, produced a game-opening homer against left-hander Alex Wood. The shot snapped an 0-for-17 drought by Granderson, albeit which included three shots to the outfield wall in Pittsburgh.
Granderson also had a leadoff homer June 15 at Citi Field against San Diego Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy. Monday’s shot marked his 26th career leadoff homer.
Catching on: Travis d'Arnaud continues to produce since returning from Vegas. Now able to reach pitches on the outer half of the plate because of his adjusted stance, d’Arnaud produced an RBI double in the second inning. He finished 1-for-4 and has hit safely in all six games since rejoining the Mets. D’Arnaud is hitting .348 (8-for-23) with one homer and four RBIs during that span.
Three cheers: The Mets entered the series batting .164 with the bases loaded this season. That figure remained intact Monday, but the Mets did pick up an RBI in such a situation. C.Y.’s third-inning sacrifice fly against Wood with the bases loaded increased the Mets’ lead to 3-0.
What’s next: Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2, 3.23 ERA) opposes left-hander Mike Minor (2-5, 4.50) at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Getty ImagesThe Mets face Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran during their upcoming series in Atlanta.
Monday: RHP Zack Wheeler (3-8, 4.45) vs. LHP Alex Wood (6-6, 3.07), 7:10 p.m. ET
Tuesday: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2, 3.23) vs. LHP Mike Minor (2-5, 4.50), 7:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: RHP Jacob deGrom (1-4, 3.62) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (7-5, 2.34), 7:10 p.m. ET
Braves short hops
• Alex Wood was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett and reentered the rotation Wednesday. He tossed seven scoreless innings at Houston in his first major league start since May 4. Wood replaced Gavin Floyd, who fractured the olecranon (funny bone) in his pitching elbow throwing a curveball. Mets doctor David Altchek performed season-ending surgery Wednesday in New York. Wood had opened the season in Atlanta’s rotation, but was shifted to the bullpen once Floyd returned from Tommy John surgery in early May.
• Evan Gattis was forced to depart Friday’s game and since has been sidelined with a muscle issue in his upper back. Gattis, who had a career-high 20-game hitting streak snapped a week ago, hopes to avoid the disabled list. He has 16 homers, most among MLB catchers and tied with teammate Justin Upton for fifth overall in the National League.
Atlanta promoted top catching prospect Christian Bethancourt as a hedge, so the Braves would not be overly reliant on Gerald Laird. Ryan Doumit also has catching experience, but has started only two games behind the plate this season, both in early April.
Bethancourt had one plate appearance last Sept. 29, in his lone previous major league action. He got his first career start and action behind the plate in Game 2 of a doubleheader Saturday at Philadelphia. The 22-year-old Panamanian went 1-for-4. He has been selected to participate in his third Futures Game, at Minnesota on July 13.
• Dan Uggla (.164, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 38 Ks in 128 at-bats) has been relegated to the bench because of profound struggles. He has started only two games since May 23. Uggla is earning $13 million this season. He also is under contract for 2015 at $13 million.
La Stella (.278) had been installed as the leadoff hitter beginning June 18, but he subsequently was moved to No. 2. Beginning this past weekend, he shifted to seventh. La Stella spent his freshman year of college playing at St. John’s before transferring to Coastal Carolina.
• First baseman Freddie Freeman has started every Braves game this season. The only other National League players to start all their teams’ games in 2014 are the Cubs’ Starlin Castro and Giants’ Hunter Pence. Freeman actually had logged every inning until he was hit by a pitch in the elbow in the eighth inning Wednesday by Houston’s Darin Downs and departed that game.
In his last 15 games, Freeman is hitting .371 (23-for-62) with nine extra-base hits and seven multi-hit games.
• Right fielder Jason Heyward’s six outfield assists are tied for the NL lead.
• The Braves will move into a new home ballpark beginning with the 2017 season. The site is located in Cobb County, in an affluent area north of Atlanta. The Braves have called Turner Field home since 1997, the year after the stadium hosted the Olympics.
• B.J. Upton and Justin Upton both homered Tuesday. It marked the fourth time the brothers went deep in the same game, which tied the major league record. Jason Giambi and Jeremy Giambi as well as Vladimir Guerrero and Wilton Guerrero also homered in the same game four times.
• Andrelton Simmons, the reigning NL Gold Glove winner at shortstop, is the third-toughest player in the NL to strike out.
• Closer Craig Kimbrel has four blown saves this season, matching last season’s total and already exceeding the three he suffered in 2012. Kimbrel’s 89.6 career save percentage nonetheless ranks third all time among MLB relievers with at least 150 chances, trailing only Eric Gagne (91.7 percent) and John Smoltz (91.1 percent). Kimbrel’s 155th save came on June 6 and set the Braves franchise record for career saves, passing Smoltz.
• Right-handed reliever David Carpenter has started a rehab assignment. He landed on the DL on June 17 with a strained biceps. Ex-Mets reliever Pedro Beato, who had been promoted to replace Carpenter, landed on the DL two days later with a right elbow strain.
• Manager Fredi Gonzalez will serve as a coach on Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s NL All-Star staff.
Just a few minutes prior to first pitch, the Mets announced they had traded first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Over the next three hours, they were nearly no-hit by the Atlanta Braves.
Braves starter Aaron Harang, who was with the Mets last September, held them without a hit for seven innings. But Harang walked six batters and needed 121 pitches just to get that far, leading Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez to go to his bullpen.
Reliever Luis Avilan retired the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the eighth, but then David Wright laced a 1-1 74 mph curveball into left field for a single, ending the Braves' no-hit bid.
That was New York's only hit of the night. The first-place Braves improve to 11-5, while the third-place Mets fall to 8-8.
What a bargain! The Braves signed Harang at the end of spring training for $1 million after he was cut by the Cleveland Indians, who had signed him to a minor league deal in February.
The 35-year-old improved to 3-1 on the season with a 0.70 ERA.
Hard luck: Jonathon Niese pitched well for the Mets, giving up just one run on four hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and three walks. Nevertheless, Niese dropped to 0-2 on the season despite an ERA of 2.84.
Pen implosion: The Braves were still clinging to a 1-0 lead entering the eighth inning, after the Mets' Carlos Torres pitched a scoreless seventh in relief of Niese.
But then Gonzalez Germen and Scott Rice combined to give up four runs in the eighth.
Germen had pitched 9⅓ scoreless innings in a row and retired 31 of the past 34 batters he had faced, but he was charged with all four runs, including a two-run homer by the Freddie Freeman. Rice also surrendered an RBI double in the inning.
Jeurys Familia gave up one more Atlanta run in the ninth.
Streak over: Catcher Travis d'Arnaud committed a throwing error in the eighth inning, which allowed a run to score. The Mets had not made an error in their past eight games and boasted the best fielding percentage in the National League at .991.
What's next: The second game of this three-game series. It'll be Bartolo Colon (1-2, 6.00 ERA) for the Mets, opposed by Ervin Santana (1-0, 0.64). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.
Associated Press/USA TODAY SportsIdentical to the series at Turner Field, the Mets face Aaron Harang, Ervin Santana and David Hale this weekend in Queens.
Friday: LHP Jonathon Niese (0-1, 3.46) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (2-1, 0.96), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: RHP Bartolo Colon (1-2, 6.00) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (1-0, 0.64), 7:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: RHP Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.76) vs. RHP David Hale (0-0, 2.89), 1:10 p.m. ET
Braves short hops
• Jason Heyward faces Jonathon Niese for the first time since the Mets southpaw drilled the right fielder and fractured his jaw with a 90 mph fastball last Aug. 21 at Citi Field. Heyward now wears a protective flap attached to his helmet.
Heyward remains in the leadoff spot despite hitting .136 overall after an 0-for-4 performance Thursday at Philadelphia that included a pair of line-drive outs. Three of his eight hits on the season came against Zack Wheeler on April 9.
• Closer Craig Kimbrel experienced shoulder soreness during an appearance Saturday and has not appeared in a game since. He threw a 15-pitch bullpen session Wednesday and “felt great,” manager Fredi Gonzalez told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Right-hander David Carpenter converted Monday’s save in Philadelphia. Carpenter had a 1.78 ERA in 2013.
• Shortstop Andrelton Simmons struck out for the first time this season Thursday. The strikeout, against Philadelphia’s A.J. Burnett, came in Simmons’ 48th plate appearance this season. With Simmons no longer K-less, St. Louis’ Shane Robinson has the most plate appearances this season of any MLB player with no strikeouts -- a measly 10.
• Evan Gattis is hitting .588 (10-for-17) with three homers, six RBIs and a 1.765 OPS in his past four games. With Brian McCann’s defection to the Yankees, Gattis exclusively has caught this season. Gattis started 47 games in left field and four games at first base in 2013.
• Left fielder Justin Upton is the reigning NL Player of the Week. He had four homers during that period, including a two-homer game against Jenrry Mejia.
• Braves starting pitchers have an MLB-best 1.58 ERA this season. Oakland starters rank second at 2.48.
• Ervin Santana threw 20 straight strikes to open his Braves debut, against the Mets at Turner Field. He then limited the Phillies to one run on four hits while matching a career high with 11 strikeouts on Monday. Santana’s 0.64 ERA ranks second in the National League.
Santana signed for one year, $14.1 million on March 12 after Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both suffered spring-training elbow injuries and ultimately required Tommy John surgery.
• Aaron Harang, who finished last season with the Mets, has the third-best ERA in the NL, at 0.96. The Braves unexpectedly dumped Freddy Garcia on March 24 and signed the 35-year-old Harang for a rotation spot. Harang took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning in Milwaukee in his Braves debut. Harang had been released by the Cleveland Indians late in spring training.
• Ex-Mets reliever Pedro Beato, claimed off waivers by the Braves on April 2, was demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett six days later, during the series the Mets took two of three at Turner Field.
• Left-hander Mike Minor, on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, should be activated next week, after one more rehab start. Right-hander Gavin Floyd, signed by the Braves in December after spending seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox, also is on a rehab assignment as he nears a return from Tommy John surgery.
• First baseman Freddie Freeman ranks fourth in the NL with a .389 batting average.
Juan Lagares delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh and Daniel Murphy contributed a run-scoring double an inning later as the Mets beat the Braves, 6-4, in Thursday’s rubber game at Turner Field.
Carlos Torres contributed two scoreless relief innings to earn the win. Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde each added a scoreless frame.
Eric Young Jr. went 3-for-5 with four runs scored and three steals. Murphy had three hits, a walk and three RBIs.
Oh, Jenrry: Jenrry Mejia surrendered two homers to Justin Upton and ultimately was charged with four runs on six hits and four walks in five innings. He stranded two runners in scoring position in his final frame and departed with the score tied at 4.
Mejia did not receive help from Curtis Granderson in right field.
Granderson misread B.J. Upton’s fly ball to right field into a triple in the third. Freddie Freeman followed with an RBI single and Justin Upton hit his second homer, a two-run shot, with two outs in that frame.
First-base watch: Ike Davis went 0-for-3 with two walks and an RBI. Lucas Duda pinch hit in the No. 9 hole and singled.
What’s next: The Mets have a long night ahead of them. They fly across the country and are expected to land in Los Angeles about 5 a.m. Eastern/2 a.m. Pacific on Friday. Then there’s still a one-hour bus ride to their Orange County hotel.
Dillon Gee (0-0, 4.50 ERA), who is traveling with the team and did not fly ahead, opposes Los Angeles Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs (1-0, 0.00) in the 10:05 p.m. ET series opener.
FIRST PITCH: Jenrry Mejia makes his second pitch to entrench himself in the rotation when the Mets have a rubber-game matchup with the Atlanta Braves on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. at Turner Field.
Mejia (1-0, 1.50 ERA) opposes right-hander David Hale (0-0, 0.00) in the series finale.
Thursday’s news reports:
• Freddie Freeman produced a two-run single in the fifth to cap the scoring against Wheeler and now has 37 RBIs in 38 games over the past three seasons against the Mets, making him the new Chipper Jones, ESPN Stats & Info’s Mark Simon writes.
• Terry Collins said Ike Davis will start at first base in Thursday’s series finale over Lucas Duda. So Duda’s audition appears to have run its course. Read more in the Star-Ledger.
• Juan Lagares crashed into the center-field wall on another highlight-reel catch after afterward suggested his right shoulder was uninjured.
• John Lannan, who continues to struggle, preauthorized a demotion to Triple-A the first 45 days of the season even though his MLB service time offered him protection against getting dispatched to the minors.
• David Wright entered Wednesday fighting the flu and hitless in 12 at-bats, but he participated in early batting practice and then went 2-for-4. Read more in the Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.
• Noah Syndergaard allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings with Triple-A Las Vegas. Princeton product Matt Bowman earned the win in his Double-A debut. St. Lucie snapped a four-game losing skid as well as a 23-inning scoreless drought with a 5-2 win against Jupiter. Read the full minor-league recap here.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal notes the Mets have a difficult early schedule. Writes Diamond:
The Mets' opponents in their first 22 games this season posted a combined winning percentage of .552 in 2013. The stretch includes six games against the National League East champion Atlanta Braves (96-66), four against the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals (97-65) and three against the NL wild card-winning Cincinnati Reds (90-72).
Only this weekend’s road series against the Los Angeles Angels (78-84) seems to offer the Mets some semblance of a break.
Since the league expanded to 30 teams in 1998, only 10 teams have endured a more grueling 22-game gauntlet to open a season than the 2014 Mets, using this measure.
• The Braves accidentally lit an American flag on fire during Tuesday’s Hank Aaron pregame ceremony, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear bridges the gap from Aaron to Bartolo Colon.
BIRTHDAYS: 2012 fourth-round pick Branden Kaupe turns 20. ... Fellow farmhand Edioglis Villasmil is 22.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: What can be done to address the Mets’ hitting woes?
Out of hospital. Thanks again for everyone's prayers and well-wishes. Time to get in rehab mode. Will be back on field in near future!— Frank J. Viola, Jr. (@FrankViola16) April 9, 2014
Jason Heyward went 3-for-3, drove in two runs and scored twice against Wheeler, who departed after five innings, and the Atlanta Braves held on to beat the Mets, 4-3, Wednesday at Turner Field.
Wheeler, who had been 3-0 in his career against the Braves, ultimately was charged with four earned runs on eight hits while striking out six.
The Mets made it interesting in the ninth, scoring three times with two outs on a Juan Lagares two-run single and RBI single by Travis d'Arnaud against Craig Kimbrel. But the Mets left the tying run on third base when Kimbrel struck out Ruben Tejada to end the game.
The Mets finished with six hits and now are hitting an MLB-worst .190 (48-for-252) through eight games this season.
After Santana required only seven pitches to dispose of the Mets in the top of the first, Heyward had an 11-pitch battle to lead off the bottom half against Wheeler. Heyward smoked pitch No. 11, a 96 mph fastball, over the right-field wall for his fourth career leadoff homer.
Heyward also had an RBI single in what became a three-run fifth. Freddie Freeman contributed a two-run single that frame as Atlanta took a 4-0 lead.
Web gems: Lagares produced his latest spectacular fielding play in center field. It came in the first inning, when he crashed into the outfield wall while snaring Freddie Freeman’s line shot. Lagares seemed to injure his right arm on the play, which left a tear in the wall. But Lagares remained in the game with no evident ill effects.
Lagares wasn’t the only player providing fielding highlights at Turner Field. On d’Arnaud’s grounder in the second, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons fired a laser from the outfield grass while on the ground to record the out at first base.
Simmons’ fielding prowess provided a stark contrast to the opposing shortstop Tejada's early issues. Simmons beat out an infield single to shortstop in the first inning. Later that frame, Tejada lost the handle while fielding Chris Johnson’s grounder and had to settle for a fielder’s choice at second rather than a double play.
Off the schneid: Under-the-weather David Wright, who participated in an extra batting-practice session in the early afternoon, snapped an 0-for-13 skid with a fourth-inning single against Santana. Wright finished 2-for-4. He nearly had a three-hit game, but was robbed on the track in right-center by Heyward in the sixth.
What’s next: Jenrry Mejia (1-0, 1.50 ERA) makes his second Mets start as the teams play the rubber game at 7:10 p.m. Thursday. Mejia opposes rookie right-hander David Hale (0-0, 0.00 ERA), a Princeton product.
Associated Press/USA TODAY SportsThe Mets will face Aaron Harang, Ervin Santana and David Hale this week at Turner Field.
Tuesday: RHP Bartolo Colon (0-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Aaron Harang (1-0, 0.00), 7:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: RHP Zack Wheeler (0-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (0-0, -.--), 7:10 p.m. ET
Thursday: RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-0, 1.50) vs. RHP David Hale (0-0, 0.00), 7:10 p.m. ET
Braves short hops
• The Braves unexpectedly dumped Freddy Garcia on March 24 and signed 35-year-old Aaron Harang for a rotation spot. Harang took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning in Milwaukee in his Braves debut. Opposing pitcher Matt Garza also took a no-hit bid into that frame. Logan Schafer’s single to lead off the bottom of the seventh ended Harang’s bid. Harang, who finished last season with the Mets, had been released by the Cleveland Indians late in spring training.
• Ervin Santana signed for one-year, $14.1 million on March 12 after Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy both suffered spring-training elbow injuries and ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Santana, who had a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts for the Kansas City Royals last season, will make his Braves debut Wednesday against the Mets. He allowed six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings on Friday for Triple-A Gwinnett against Durham in his final tune-up.
• Atlanta also is missing a third starting pitcher -- left-hander Mike Minor. Minor, hindered by shoulder tendinitis during spring training, logged two innings for Double-A Mississippi on Thursday in a rehab start.
• Right-hander David Hale tossed five scoreless innings in his season debut at the Washington Nationals on Friday. It was his third career major-league start. Last September, Hale limited the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies to a combined one run in 13 innings. He is a third-round pick in 2009 out of Princeton. To earn the rotation role, Hale beat out fellow rookie Gus Schlosser, who instead found a spot in the bullpen as a longer reliever.
• The Braves claimed ex-Met Pedro Beato off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.
• Brothers B.J. Upton and Justin Upton were a combined 2-for-31 with 16 strikeouts through Friday before each produced a two-hit game Saturday at Nationals Park.
• The Braves lead the majors with a 1.56 ERA.
• Closer Craig Kimbrel notched his 142nd career save Friday, passing Gene Garber for second on the franchise’s all-time list. John Smoltz owns the franchise record with 154 saves. Smoltz also won 210 games as a Brave.
• The Braves went on a late-winter signing binge, locking up several core players long term. The signings:
Feb. 5: First baseman Freddie Freeman, eight years, $135 million
Feb. 14: Right-hander Julio Teheran, six years, $32.4 million
Feb. 16: Kimbrel, four years, $42 million
Feb. 20: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, seven years, $58 million
Right fielder Jason Heyward also signed for two years, $13.3 million on Feb. 4 to avoid arbitration.
• Simmons earned his first Gold Glove last season.
• The Braves, who have played at Turner Field since it opened for baseball the year after the 1996 Olympics, will move to a new ballpark in Cobb County for the 2017 season. The 42,000-seat stadium, which will be located 10 miles north of downtown Atlanta, is projected to cost $672 million. The Braves have disputed the publicly financed contribution to that price tag, which has been reported as $450 million.
• The probable Braves batting order:
B.J. Upton, cf
Chris Johnson, 3b
Justin Upton, lf
Dan Uggla, 2b
Evan Gattis/Gerald Laird/Ryan Doumit, c
• Over the weekend, Heyward dealt with muscle spasms in the back of his neck that have resulted in headaches. He still wears a protective flap attached to his helmet to protect his jaw, which he fractured on a 90 mph fastball from Jonathon Niese last August.
ATLANTA -- Dillon Gee continued his surge. The Mets salvaged the series finale.
Gee limited Atlanta to one run and four hits in seven innings to earn his team-leading 11th win and Andrew Brown and Lucas Duda homered as the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves, 5-2, Wednesday afternoon at Turner Field.
The Braves won the season series, 10-9. But the Mets fared well compared with their NL East brethren. Atlanta is 30-13 against the division’s other three teams.
With Atlanta in control of the division, the Braves skipped Julio Teheran to conserve his innings count and instead gave journeyman Kameron Loe his first major league start since 2007 with the Texas Rangers.
Loe surrendered a first-inning two-run homer to Brown. Duda then led off what became a three-run third with his first major league homer since June 12, before a disabled-list trip and demotion.
In 4 1/3 innings, Loe ultimately surrendered 11 hits, the most by a pitcher against the Mets this season.
Brown twice stranded the bases loaded after his homer, but Gee did not need the additional support.
After left fielder Eric Young Jr. dropped a fly ball, Gee overcame two runners in scoring position with one out in the first inning by consecutively striking out Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird. Gee then cruised into the fifth, when he surrendered consecutive singles to Dan Uggla and Paul Janish and eventually a sacrifice fly to B.J. Upton that pulled the Braves within 5-1.
Gee’s final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. He threw 101 pitches (77 strikes).
Gee has completed six innings in a career-high 13 straight starts. He went 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in six starts in August.
Freddie Freeman homered against Vic Black in the eighth to pull the Braves within three runs. Freeman hit .338 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 74 at-bats against the Mets this season.
What’s next: The Mets spend an off-day in Cleveland on Thursday, then open a three-game weekend series against the Indians. Zack Wheeler (7-3, 3.36 ERA) opposes left-hander Scott Kazmir (7-7, 4.36) in Friday’s opener. It will mark Kazmir’s first-ever appearance against his original organization.
Associated Press, USA TODAY SportsTim Hudson (ankle) and Jason Heyward (jaw) have suffered serious bone fractures at Citi Field in the past month.
FIRST PITCH: Aces Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer will make history this weekend.
Their matchup Saturday at Citi Field will mark the first time the All-Star Game starters have faced off at any point during that same regular season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Of course, the Mets made that possible by keeping Harvey on an extra day of rest.
Carlos Torres steps into the rotation spot vacated by Jenrry Mejia to face Detroit Tigers right-hander Doug Fister in Friday’s 7:10 p.m. series opener.
After Harvey-Scherzer Saturday at 4:05 p.m., Dillon Gee opposes Seton Hall prep product Rick Porcello in Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. finale.
First, the Mets enjoy their first off-day today since Aug. 5.
Scherzer, by the way, is only the fifth pitcher in major league history to win at least 18 of his first 19 decisions of a season -- as a starter or reliever. He joins Rube Marquard (1912 New York Giants, 19-0), Roger Clemens (2001 Yankees, 18-1), Roy Face (1959 Pittsburgh Pirates, 18-1) and Don Newcombe (1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, 18-1).
Thursday’s news reports:
• Jason Heyward suffered two fractures to his jaw when he was struck by a 90 mph fastball from Jonathon Niese in the sixth inning Wednesday. Heyward is due to undergo surgery in Atlanta on Thursday. He is expected to miss four to six weeks.
It marked the second time this season the Mets had dealt a serious injury to a key member of the Braves at Citi Field. Tim Hudson fractured his right ankle covering first base when Eric Young Jr. stepped on him on July 24.
"He never lost consciousness," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told reporters afterward about Heyward. "Right before he went to the hospital he popped his head into the clubhouse to say goodbye to some of the guys.
“It’s not the ballpark. It's just a matter of freak stuff happening. It can happen anywhere.”
Read more in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Post and Newsday.
Daniel Murphy was ejected for barking at Layne about the Freeman call as Johnson rounded the bases. Terry Collins subsequently returned to the field to argue and was tossed, too. Major League Baseball intends to institute manager challenges next season that would have reversed such a call.
Niese had allowed one run in seven innings in a no-decision. Atlanta evened the score at 1 in the sixth when Niese briefly unraveled after drilling Heyward with two outs. The southpaw subsequently surrendered singles to Andrelton Simmons and Freeman.
The Mets have now played 52 extra innings this season, eight shy of matching the franchise record, set in 1979 and duplicated in 1985.
Juan Lagares recorded his 11th outfield assist, pulling even with Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Gonzalez for the major league lead. Lagares has the most outfield assists by a rookie since Rocco Baldelli had 15 with Tampa Bay in 2003.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Journal and MLB.com.
• Frank Francisco resurfaced in the Gulf Coast League on Wednesday. Francisco surrendered a solo homer to minor league veteran Ben Lasater. He otherwise struck out two in one inning against the GCL Marlins in Port St. Lucie, Fla. It marked Francisco’s first official minor league game action since July 15.
Unless the Mets can get Francisco to the major league level in the next nine days and trade him while he would be eligible for another team’s playoff roster, it clearly would be plausible for them to release the former closer soon. After all, why give him a September opportunity to set up a free-agent deal elsewhere this offeason?
Francisco, making $6.5 million as part of an expiring two-year, $12 million deal, has not appeared with the Mets this season. He seemingly underwent a benign surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.
• Jeremy Hefner will seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday, but believes he is headed for Tommy John surgery to address a partially torn medial collateral ligament. The surgery, which has a typical 12-month recovery time, would sideline Hefner for most if not all of the 2014 season. Hefner also needs bone spurs removed. Read more in the Times, Daily News, Post, Star-Ledger and Newsday.
• Brian Costa notes in the Journal that he willingly preferred to attend Citi Field rather than Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Writes Costa:
But as the Mets slog through what's left of another forgettable season in relative obscurity, a window of opportunity is opening. The emergence of their best young players is coinciding with the devolution of the Yankees into an abject spectacle, like the Bronx Zoo Yankees of the 1970s minus the championship.
You'd be a fool to write the Yankees off entirely. Entering Thursday, they'd won eight of their last 10 games. But the odds are not in their favor. Based on the team's run differential and remaining schedule, the website coolstandings.com gave the Yankees a mere 11 percent chance of making the playoffs entering Thursday. And with no top young talent on the immediate horizon, 2014 looks as murky as ever.
For the first time in a long time, it looks entirely possible that the Mets will be a better team than the Yankees a year from today.
“We mixed some older guys in, myself included, and we jelled well," Dykstra told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. "It’s just a good camaraderie in the clubhouse and that really reflects on the field.”
Eric Campbell had a walk-off single in the 11th as Las Vegas rallied from a seven-run deficit to beat Fresno, 8-7, and improve to 72-57. Demoted Anthony Recker made his 51s debut with an eighth-inning groundout as a pinch hitter.
Domingo Tapia allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings as St. Lucie lost to Palm Beach, 7-0. Kyle Johnson extended his hitting streak to 16 games. St. Lucie earlier had won the resumption of Tuesday’s suspended game, 6-4. Robbie Shields had a tiebreaking two-run double in the seventh.
After St. Lucie's doubleheader, outfielder/third baseman Dustin Lawley (.259, 25 HR, 90 RBIs) was named Florida State League player of the year. Bronx-raised infielder T.J. Rivera and right-hander Matt Bowman also were named to the FSL postseason All-Star team.
Estarlin Morel threw a walk-off wild pitch as Savannah lost at Kannapolis, 4-3. 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo went 2-for-3 with a walk and now has a .406 average (26-for-64) in August.
• From the bloggers: Faith and Fear in Flushing has seen enough of the Braves.
BIRTHDAYS: Outfielder Darrin Jackson is 50. … Ray Burris was born on this date in 1950.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Are you concerned for the Mets being the target for retribution when they play at Turner Field from Sept 2-4, given the injuries to Jason Heyward and Tim Hudson?
Damn J-hey. I'm super pissed. Next car I see with #mets tag on it I'm gonna take a big ol dump on their hood.— Don Payne (@bringdapayne1) August 21, 2013
Amazing off day back home in mystic with family and friend! Nieces were too much and too cute. All that was missing was one person.— Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33) August 6, 2013
@MattHarvey33 I'm sorry I couldn't be there— Freddie Freeman (@FreddieFreeman5) August 6, 2013
@FreddieFreeman5 Freddie this this time I wasn't talking about you!— Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33) August 6, 2013
@MattHarvey33 shoot! Definitely thought you were talking about me! Common mistake— Freddie Freeman (@FreddieFreeman5) August 6, 2013
@FreddieFreeman5 common mistake buddy. Just miss my lady.— Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33) August 6, 2013
@MattHarvey33 totally understand you miss your lady. But next time please clarify cuz you had me really confused!— Freddie Freeman (@FreddieFreeman5) August 6, 2013
NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler did not duplicate the six scoreless innings he tossed at Turner Field in his major league debut on June 18. In reality, his outing today was an unremarkable showing. Yet Wheeler received the win as the Mets earned a split of a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves.
Wheeler surrendered homers to Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman, but the Mets nonetheless produced a 7-4 win on an atypically chilly July afternoon at Citi Field.
Daniel Murphy's single plated Andrew Brown with the go-ahead run. David Wright followed with a disputed RBI triple as the Mets took a two-run lead. John Buck then notched his third RBI of the game with a run-scoring double. Murphy finished 3-for-4.
With the series split, the Mets leave for Washington in the same position as when the Braves series began -- 10 games behind division-leading Atlanta. But now the Mets (45-53) have 64 games remaining in their season.
Wheeler's line: 6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP. He threw 95 pitches, including 31 to navigate the first inning.
Ouch: Eric Young Jr. left the game after three innings with right knee pain, possibly related to his contact with Tim Hudson on Wednesday. It was Brown, Young's replacement, who had the leadoff double in the bottom of the sixth and scored on Murphy's single for a 5-4 lead.
Outta here: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected in the sixth, although he actually was in the right in the dispute. Wright was credited with an RBI triple in the Mets' three-run frame. In reality, the ball bounced up and hit the railing above the left-field wall, which should have made it a ground-rule double and prevented a run from scoring from first base.
What's next: The Mets head to D.C. for a three-day, four-game series against the Washington Nationals. Jenrry Mejia makes his season debut for the Mets in the Friday afternoon game opposite Nats right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (12-5, 3.01 ERA). Mets ace Matt Harvey (8-2, 2.23) opposes right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (2-0, 2.03) in Game 2 of the day-night doubleheader.
For the second time in five weeks, fueled by a gem from Dillon Gee, the Mets took a scoreless effort into the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves. And again they lost 2-1 in gut-wrenching fashion.
Center fielder Jason Heyward made an amazing game-ending diving catch in left-center against pinch hitter Justin Turner for the final out with two Mets on base. Heyward was playing center field only because B.J. Upton is on the disabled list. Heyward had missed the previous six games over 11 days with a right hamstring injury.
Parnell had not allowed an earned run in his previous nine innings and had converted 15 of his past 16 save opportunities.
If that sounded like déjà vu, it is for good reason: Gee had taken a scoreless effort into the ninth inning in Atlanta on June 17, only to allow a walk-off two-run homer to Freddie Freeman as the Braves won 2-1.
The Mets, who had been poised to move within nine games of the first-place Braves for the first time since May 31, instead dropped 11 games back with Monday’s loss.
Gee took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning before surrendering a leadoff single to Freeman. He ultimately stranded the bases loaded that inning, allowing the Mets to maintain a 1-0 lead.
It marked the fourth time this season a Mets pitcher had taken a no-hit bid into the seventh. The other three outings were produced by Matt Harvey.
Gee, poised to move above .500 for the first time this season, instead received a hard-luck no-decision for his 96-pitch effort.
His line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP.
The Mets’ lone run came in the fourth inning. Right fielder Justin Upton misplayed Marlon Byrd’s sinking liner into a leadoff triple. Ike Davis followed with a run-scoring single.
What's next: Carlos Torres (0-1, 0.79 ERA) makes his second Mets start. He opposes right-hander Kris Medlen (6-9, 3.64) at 7:10 p.m. ET Tuesday.