MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets

Game recap September 19: Syndergaard stutters

Rookie Aaron Blair pitched six innings of two-run ball for his first major league win, long-time nemesis Freddie Freeman drove in three and the last-place Atlanta Braves defeated the Mets 7-3 in Monday night’s series opener at Citi Field.

The lopsided loss snapped a three-game winning streak for New York, but the Mets managed to maintain their one-game lead for the first Wild Card spot after the Giants lost on a walkoff.

Three of Blair’s twelve big league outings before Monday were against the Mets and he had been rocked to the tune of 14 runs in 15.2 innings. The former first-round pick fared much better this time around, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out four en route to the victory.

Queens was awash in rain and cloudy conditions for most of the day, clearing up just in time for first pitch. Blair’s counterpart on the mound may wish the rain had never let up.

Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ most consistent starter in a rotation decimated by injuries, could not make it past the fourth inning against a Braves offense that has been rather formidable of late.

After a quick first inning in which he seemed to be in control, the long-haired All-Star struggled the rest of the way. In the end, Syndergaard was charged with five runs on eight hits and three walks over just 3.2 innings, throwing 99 pitches in his shortest outing since June 27.

“Baseball’s just a really funny game. I warmed up really good in the bullpen and I felt really on top of my game in the first inning,” Syndergaard said. “Pesky team out there and they can really do some damage.”

Atlanta struck first with a station-to-station second inning, taking advantage of some uncharacteristic wildness by Syndergaard. Veteran Nick Markakis reached on a one-out infield single, followed by back-to-back walks by Tyler Flowers and Jace Peterson to load the bases.

Highly touted rookie Dansby Swanson, last year’s first overall pick in the draft, drove in Markakis with a single to right field. After a popout by Blair, Ender Inciarte went the other way with a groundball single to left, scoring Flowers and giving Atlanta an early 2-0 advantage. Adonis Garcia flied out, leaving the bases loaded.

“He lost the feel. He lost his rhythm,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You’re looking at 11 pitches, he got four outs, and then the next thing you know he couldn’t throw the ball over the plate. That’s completely out of character.”

Freeman (4-for-5) led off the third inning with an opposite-field home run to left on a 3-2 sinker, his 31st of the season. The homer, only the 11th given up by Syndergaard this year, extended Freeman’s hitting streak to a major league-leading 23 games. The 27-year-old, a lifetime .313 hitter with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs against New York, has also reached base in a career-high 39 straight games.

It was Freeman again in the top of the fourth, collecting his second and third RBIs of the night with a two-out double into the left field corner that extended the Braves’ lead to 5-0.

“It’s just one of those games,” Syndergaard said. “I kind of lost control over my fastball and tried to do too much. I kind of fell out of my mechanics a little bit.”

With two outs in the bottom of the frame, Curtis Granderson lined a single to left-center for the Mets’ first hit of the game. After hitting just 35 round-trippers in 625 regular season games over six minor league campaigns, rookie T.J. Rivera homered for the second day in a row and the third time in less than a week, driving an inside fastball just over the left field wall to make the score 5-2.

Making his sixth consecutive start, the undrafted Bronx native is batting .417 with three home runs and six RBIs over that span.

Freeman got things started in the seventh with an infield hit off of reliever Josh Edgin. After two quick outs, Flowers singled to center, setting up runners on the corners. Peterson walked to load the bases, chasing Edgin in favor of Hansel Robles.

Swanson, Baseball Prospectus’ 27th-best prospect coming into the season, drove in Freeman and Flowers with a blooper to left that fell in no-man’s land for a single and padded Atlanta’s lead at 7-2.

James Loney (3-for-4) doubled in Michael Conforto in the ninth inning against closer Jim Johnson to wrap up the night’s scoring at 7-3.

“If there’s any game that we’ve played in a long time that demonstrates that there’s no guarantees and no sure things in baseball, tonight’s the game,” Collins said.


Steven Matz (9-8, 3.40 ERA, 3.1 WARP), on the 15-day Disabled List with left shoulder tightness, is expected to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday. The Mets hope their southpaw from Long Island can start on Friday vs. Philadelphia. It would be Matz’s first appearance since Aug. 14.


Three of Monday night’s key contributors for the Braves were all acquired in the same offseason trade with Arizona. Atlanta acquired Blair, Inciarte (1-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI) and Swanson (3-for-5 with a run scored and three RBIs) in December for RHP Shelby Miller (2-12, 6.90 ERA) and minor league left-hander Gabe Speier.


Outfielder Curtis Granderson was presented with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award on Monday afternoon during a pregame press conference at Citi Field. The annual award, sponsored by the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity, is given to the player who best exemplifies the giving character of the legendary Yankees first baseman. Gehrig was a member of the fraternity while attending Columbia University in Manhattan.

Granderson was also tabbed to represent the NL East as one of six finalists in the running for this season’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award. The winner will be decided by his peers via the 2016 Players Choice Awards ballot, which will be distributed to all Major Leaguers on Tuesday. The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award is intended for “players who inspire others to higher levels of achievement by their on-field performances and contributions to their communities,” according to the MLBPA.


RHP Julio Teheran (5-10, 3.18 ERA, .237 TAv, 3.0 WARP) takes on rookie RHP Robert Gsellman (2-1, 3.08 ERA, 5.13 DRA, .333 BABIP) in the middle game of the series on Tuesday night. Atlanta’s lone All-Star this season, Teheran is 6-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 14 career outings (13 starts) against the Mets. Gsellman faced the Braves in Atlanta on Sep. 9, a 6-4 New York victory. He did not factor in the decision, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings.

Photo credit: Wendell Cruz – USA Today Sports

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