It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but the Mets persevered through a 12-inning marathon Friday night to top the Braves 5-3 and even their weekend series at Sun Trust Park.
The game started with a bang for Atlanta, as after their starter Sean Newcomb tossed a scoreless first inning, second baseman Ozzie Albies greeted Mets ace Noah Syndergaard rudely, turning around a first pitch 100 mph fastball and depositing it over the right center field fence for his Braves’ leading sixth home run of the season. The Mets went quietly in the second, but got the bats going in the third, as after Tomas Nido led off the frame with a single, Amed Rosario doubled him in with a drive into the right center field gap. Rosario later scored on a sacrifice fly from Michael Conforto, giving the Mets a 2-1 advantage. After Syndergaard worked around a leadoff hit from Atlanta’s center fielder Ender Inciarte in the Braves’ half of the frame, the Mets began hurting themselves a little in the fourth.
After Todd Frazier drew a one-out walk and then stole second base, Wilmer Flores lined a hit into right field, easily scoring Frazier to give the Mets a 3-1 lead. The play didn’t end there, however, as Flores attempted to stretch a single into a double, and was easily thrown out by Atlanta right fielder Nick Markakis. New York has made a point of running the bases aggressively all year, a tone that was set early in spring training, but there is a difference between controlled aggression and unnecessary risk, and Flores should have been able to make a better judgement with the play directly in front of him. Critiquing someone after an RBI hit feels a little bit like nitpicking though, especially when a much bigger issue for the Mets came in the bottom of the frame. After Syndergaard had easily retired the first two Atlanta hitters, a Dansby Swanson ground ball made it through the left side of the infield to give the Braves a two-out runner. Ryan Flaherty then roped a hard line drive that Jay Bruce grossly misjudged, overcharged and had to chase the ball to the wall as Swanson raced all the way around, cutting the New York lead to 3-2.
The Mets came close to regaining a two run advantage in the sixth, when, after a Flores two-out single, Bruce lofted a fly ball down the left field line that fell for a hit. Third base coach Glenn Sherlock waved Flores home, not a bad play with two outs, but Atlanta left fielder Preston Tucker made a strong throw to the plate, and Kurt Suzuki made an even better play, catching the ball and athletically diving to tag Flores’ elbow just before his fingertips reached the far corner of the plate, ending the inning and giving the Braves a big momentum boost. The home team was able to ride that energy into the bottom of the frame when Markakis lined a lead off double into left center, giving the Braves an immediate scoring threat that they quickly capitalized on. After advancing to 3rd on a wild pitch, Markakis walked home on a long sacrifice fly by Suzuki, and just like that the game was tied. Both Syndergaard and Newcomb were done after six, creating a battle of the bullpens as the game headed to the later innings.
The relief pitching was spot on for both teams, as Dan Winkler, Shane Carle and A.J. Minter all contributed scoreless innings for Atlanta, and New York got two hitless innings from Seth Lugo (aided by Nido throwing out two potential base-stealers) and a perfect frame from A.J. Ramos to push the contest into extra innings.
Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino tossed a 1-2-3 top of the 10th, and Robert Gsellman did the same for the Mets in the bottom of the frame, sending the game to the 11th where the drama began to build. Righty Josh Ravin, just activated from the DL earlier in the day, entered in the 11th and found himself in immediate trouble after a lead-off walk and a Freddie Freeman error. He was able to get the next three hitters though to keep the game tied, and give Atlanta their 3rd opportunity to walk the game off with a run. After Gsellman got the first two Braves hitters in the 11th he found trouble himself, as Markakis turned in a strong at-bat that resulted in a walk, and Suzuki then roped a hit into left field. As the crowd chopped their tomahawks in anticipation, Gsellman was able to silence them by striking out Tucker to end the inning and send the game into the 12th.
In a somewhat surprising move, Mets manager Mickey Callaway let Gsellman bat for himself to begin the inning, a move that essentially signified New York relievers Paul Sewald and Jerry Blevins were both unavailable. Frustratingly for Braves fans, with Ravin basically being handed the first out of the inning, he instead hit Gsellman with a pitch, immediately putting him in a difficult situation. A sacrifice bunt from Rosario moved the go-ahead run into scoring position, but Conforto popped out to shortstop, putting Ravin on the brink of another escape. Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes had different ideas however, as, after striking out four times earlier in the night, he found a hole through the right side to score Gsellman and give New York the lead. Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a double off the right field fence to add an insurance run, and the Mets were able to send closer Jeurys Familia to the mound in the bottom of the inning with a 5-3 cushion. Familia easily set the Braves down in order to secure the win, and earn New York their 14th win in their first 19 games.
Tonight the Mets send Jacob deGrom to the hill opposing Atlanta’s Julio Teheran.
Photo credit: Dale Zanine – USA Today Sports