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ATLANTA -- Left fielder Lucas Duda began his major league debut with jitters. He departed his major league debut in the eighth inning with hamstring cramps, which he speculated were the result of dehydration suffered during a flight from Buffalo, N.Y.
In between, the 24-year-old Duda went hitless in three at-bats, made a stellar sliding catch in foul ground and took part in the latest New York Mets defeat.
"It was pretty awesome, even though I had to leave in the eighth because I had cramps in my hamstring," Duda said after the Mets lost to the Braves 4-1 on Wednesday night at Turner Field. "Who makes their major league debut and comes out due to cramps? That's not the way I wanted to start it. Hopefully, maybe I'll get back in there and finish a game."
Aside from Duda's sliding catch down the left-field line on Brian McCann's fly ball in the first inning, these were the most meaningful events for the Mets on the first day of meaningless September baseball:
• Joaquin Arias, acquired for Jeff Francoeur, made his Mets debut ... as a replacement for Duda in the outfield. It was a position Arias had never played in a game at any level, except in practice.
• Chris Carter recorded his first major league steal.
• David Wright produced his first hit at Turner Field this season, after going 0-for-29 in Atlanta to start the year.
• Braves organist Matthew Kaminski alternated between "Camptown Races" and "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" when Duda batted.
• Ruben Tejada's three-game hitting streak was snapped.
• Jenrry Mejia arrived in the clubhouse from Triple-A and was confirmed as Saturday's starter at Wrigley Field.
Oh, and ex-Met Billy Wagner notched his 31st save as the Atlanta Braves maintained a three-game lead in the National League East.
The Mets dropped three games under .500 for the first time since they were 20-23 on May 21. They need Johan Santana to top Tim Hudson on Thursday to avoid getting swept in a four-game series for the second time this year. The Marlins swept the Mets in a four-game set in Miami from May 13 through 16, prompting chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon to show up the following day in Atlanta for a meeting with GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel in the visiting manager's office at Turner Field.
Wilpon already has made a cameo during this series, on Monday. He acknowledged he would be in Washington next week for a day as well when the Mets face off against the Nationals.
Along those lines, Manuel actually started talking about himself in the past tense during his Wednesday postgame Q&A with reporters while he was discussing Duda.
"Just from what I observed today, as a defensive player in the game, and what I observed today just in batting practice, I think they're going to have to find a place for this young man to play here at the major leagues next year," Manuel said.
He then amended the remark to say "we" will have to find a place.
"I was impressed with Duda in left field," Manuel added. "He moved extremely well for me. I was very impressed with him in batting practice. I am really looking forward to watching him the rest of these games and just seeing how the National League attacks him, approaches him. You saw tonight where there were a lot of offspeed pitches."
Said Duda: "I was pretty nervous out there. Once I got the first one out of the way, I kind of calmed down a little bit. I was still kind of super-excited to be out there."
Meanwhile, Mike Pelfrey allowed four runs over the opening two innings and was pulled after five innings with the Mets trailing 4-0. The Mets were two-hit by Tommy Hanson, Jonny Venters and Wagner. The lone run came in the eighth, on an RBI single by Luis Hernandez. The other hit was Wright's fourth-inning double that snapped his 0-for-29 drought this season at Turner Field.
Duda's first two at-bats were flyouts to center field against Hanson. He then struck out against Venters.
"I faced Hanson in high school, actually," Duda said, referring to his teenage days in Riverside, Calif. "He did the same thing to me -- popped me up. I knew him a little bit in high school. Great stuff in high school. Great stuff now."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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