MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves

Game recap September 9: The Mets are never going to lose again

Though the Mets did not play on Thursday, they entered their Friday night game against the Braves (the start of their last ever series at Turner Field) with improved playoff position. Somehow, despite running single digit playoff odds a month ago, the Mets found themselves in sole possession of the second wild card after the Brewers blew out the Cardinals. Even better, the Mets were only a half game behind the Giants for the first wild card spot. The playoffs suddenly looked like a better than 50-50 proposition.

To keep the good times rolling, the Mets would have to crack Julio Teheran, who entered the game with 24 consecutive scoreless innings against them. Opposing him was Robert Gsellman, who has utilized his every-pitch-but-the-kitchen-sink arsenal to post a 2.87 ERA in his first 15.2 innings of major league action. His low strikeout rate, elevated walk rate and low HR/FB rate portend a rising ERA in the future, but for now the Mets need him to hold down a spot until other starters can hopefully get healthy.

In the first, the Mets finally seemed ready to break Teheran’s scoreless inning streak. With one out, Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson followed with an infield single and a walk. That brought Wilmer Flores to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. Unfortunately, Teheran is not a lefty and Flores grounded into an inning-ending double play. The Mets wouldn’t record another hit until the sixth inning, putting only one baserunner on in the interim (another walk to Granderson).

Gsellman, meanwhile, flashed some nastier pitches than he’s displayed thus far in the major leagues, but ultimately put up a sub-par performance. In the bottom of the second, Matt Kemp lined a solo home run over the left center field wall to put the Braves up 1-0. Gsellman bounced back and posted two scoreless innings, but the Braves got back on Gsellman in the fifth.

Dansby Swanson (who was on base four times in this game) led off with a single, then was sacrificed to second by Teheran. Ender Inciarte grounded out, but the next four Braves (Adonis Garcia, Freddie Freeman, Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis) recorded three hits and a walk, building a 4-0 lead for the Braves before Gsellman finally struck out Tyler Flowers to end the inning as well as his night. Gsellman finished with five innings pitched, allowing seven hits, walking two and striking out six, leaving the game in a 4-0 hole.

At this point, the Mets’ began working some of their late season magic. Granderson, revived after being a well-below average player for most of the season, launched a two-run homer in the top of the sixth, ending Teheran’s scoreless streak against the Mets at 29 innings and, more importantly, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Jim Henderson entered for the bottom of the sixth and didn’t record an out, but Josh Smoker came in and cleaned the mess, striking out A.J. Pierzynski and inducing a double-play ball to keep the game in reach.

The seventh inning was quiet on both sides, with Hansel Robles working around a couple of walks to keep the Braves off the board. Then the Braves fell apart in the eighth. Alejandro De Aza walked, Jose Reyes reached on an error and Cabrera walked to load the bases with no outs for Cespedes. Cespedes lofted a sacrifice fly to right field in front of an RBI single from Granderson that tied the game and put runners on the corners with one out. Kelly Johnson put the Mets ahead with another clutch hit, this one a double, and Michael Conforto drove in another when he was hit by a pitch. By the time De Aza struck out to end the inning, the Mets had batted around and turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

Addison Reed entered for the eighth and, with the help of two stellar defensive plays from Eric Campbell at first base (who saw that coming?), preserved the Mets’ two-run lead for Jeurys Familia. Familia had to work around a really impressive bit of hitting from Adonis Garcia, who one-handed a ball 380 feet to left field for a leadoff double, but he was up to the task, inducing a ground out from Matt Kemp and striking out Freddie Freeman and Tyler Flowers to cap cap the win.

The Mets have now won six straight games and 15 of their last 19 to storm their way back into a playoff spot. With both the Cardinals and Giants winning, the Mets remain half a game back of the Giants for the first wild card and half a game ahead of the Cardinals for the second. Last night was certainly an excellent way to kick of the final series for the team at Turner Field, which has long been a place of nightmares for the Mets. Bartolo Colon squares off against former Met prospect John Gant as the Mets look to keep the wins coming on Saturday.

Photo credit: Jason Getz – USA Today Sports

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