On Tuesday night, Terry Collins threw out a lineup that could be called interesting, if you were feeling charitable. For one thing, Jason Bay was benched in favor of Willie Harris, in deference to Jair Jurrjens' power over right-handed batters, Willie Harris' small-sample-sized success against Jurrjens, and Bay's general putridness. Only Dan Uggla's presence on the Braves' roster kept Bay from being the most baffling offensive nonentity in the ballpark.
The Mets were also denied ginger sparkplug Justin Turner, dealing with a thumb injury, and further handicapped themselves by playing the defensively challenged Daniel Murphy at third, even though Murph cost the Mets a game in Pittsburgh with his holey glove at the hot corner. Altogether, this did not bode well for facing Jair Jurrjens, owner of a 1.82 ERA who had never lost to the Mets at Turner Field.
And yet, things got off to a roaring start when Jose Reyes led off the game with an infield single. Jair Jurrjens tried to keep him close with his pickoff move, but Reyes was more perturbed by the suspiciously swampy infield, which nearly caused him to trip twice. The umpires (apparently of their own volition) demanded that the Atlanta grounds crew un-slick the running conditions post-haste.
This seemed to rattle Jurrjens. A pitcher who allows few stolen bases and free passes let Reyes swipe second, then walked the virtually un-walkable Willie Harris. After a bunt attempt that dredged up unpleasant memories of 2005, Carlos Beltran knocked in Reyes with a single, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead and notching the first first-inning run on Jurrjens' ledger in 19 starts.
Jurrjens retired the next six batters he faced easily, and his teammates tied things up in the second inning. David Ross hit a two-out single, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored when Beltran mishandled a shallow bloop single by Joe Mather.
But the Mets struck back against a surprisingly vulnerable Jurrjens in the top of the third. Reyes and Harris singled to open the inning, then moved to second and third on a double steal. (Beltran attempted to call time on the pitch, a request that was luckily ignored.) They both soon scored--Reyes on an Angel Pagan single, Harris on a Lucas Duda sac fly--to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
After quiet fourth and fifth innings, Ruben Tejada worked out a walk in a tough at bat to open the sixth. Niese managed to get down a sac bunt (something he had great difficulty with in his last start) to bring up Reyes with Tejada at second. Jurrjens tried to brush Reyes off the plate, but he responded with a well-struck RBI single to expand the Mets' lead to 4-1. After yet another walk to Harris, Jurrjens' evening was done. A pitcher who had formerly dominated the Mets and had never lost to them at Turner Field was roughed up by New York for his second straight start.
Jon Niese dispatched the Braves with little trouble after the Mather single, retiring 14 of the next 15 batters he faced and barely breaking a sweat in the effort. It was yet another dominant start in a season that is rapidly approaching "we need to talk about this guy more" status. With one out in the seventh, he gave up a dribbling one-out infield single to Alex Gonzalez, then fell behind Ross and gave up a booming RBI double It was the first ball hit hard by an Atlanta batter all game, but it was enough to knock Niese out of the game.
Pedro Beato was the first man out of the bullpen and promptly walked Mather to put the tying runs on base. That brought up pinch hitter Brian McCann, which in turn caused the Mets to look to Tim Byrdak. The lefty did a great job striking out the dangerous McCann and pinch hitter Diory Hernandez (who required four strikes for a K, apparently) to prevent further damage.
Jason Isringhausen took his traditional eighth inning duties and made things far too interesting by hanging a one-out curveball to Dan Uggla, which the formerly hapless slugger smacked into the left field seats, shaving the Mets' lead to one run. He then served up another fat pitch to Chipper Jones, and Larry hit a deep fly ball to right field. History tells us that long fly balls off of Chipper Jones's bat tend to land in the seats, right on top of Mets' fans crushed dreams, particularly at Turner Field. This time, Beltran made a great leaping catch against the auxiliary scoreboard that, at the very least, took an extra base hit off of Izzy's ledger. A quiet comebacker from Eric Hinske ended the inning in much less dramatic fashion.
After squeezing a few scoreless innings from George Sherrill and Scott Proctor, Fredi Gonzalez proved his bona fides as a graduate of the Joe Torre School of Bullpen Management by bringing in perpetually worked young reliever Craig Kimbrel. The youngster loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman, but struck out Tejada looking on three pitches (one of which may have been an actual strike) to end the threat.
Fortunately for the Mets, they did not live to regret the home plate ump's magically shrinking strike zone. Frankie Rodriguez decided to keep the drama at a minimum for once by striking out Alex Gonzalez and pinch hitter Brooks Conrad, then getting an easy flyout from Mather to seal the victory. The win improves the Mets' all-time record at Turner Field to 40-80, a stellar .333 winning percentage. And if you're keeping score (and I know I am), that improves the Mets' record when I recap to 3-9. Yeah, .250!
Considering the Braves' moist gamesmanship and the Mets' traditional luck in Atlanta, I'm surprised the earth didn't swallow someone up during this game. I'm frankly amazed each time the Mets manage to win down there, particularly when saddled with a cast of characters like the ones they have now. But that's why they play the games. That is why they play the games, right? If not, please suggest why the play the games in the comments below.
Big winners: Jose Reyes, +20.4%, Frankie Rodriguez, +19.3%
Big losers: Lucas Duda, -9.9%, Josh Thole, -6.4%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Angel Pagan RBI single, third inning, +10.0%
Teh sux0rest play: Dan Uggla solo homer, eighth inning, -12.0%
Total pitcher WPA: +39.7%
Total batter WPA: +10.3%
GWRBI!: Reyes RBI single, sixth inning
Nice job by freakystyley; his effort in the game thread embiggens us all.
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