Having won in dramatic fashion on Friday night and been rained out on Saturday in Atlanta, the Mets came into the day looking for a two-game "sweep" of the Braves. That did not happen.
Jon Niese and the Mets’ defense combined to give up a whole lot of runs. Niese was mostly okay through the first two innings, but Dan Uggla’s one-out triple in the second was the first of the Mets’ several bad defensive plays in the game. Given the ball’s hang time, it was hard to believe the ball wasn’t caught in the first place. But Niese got the next two batters out and escaped unscathed.
The third inning, though, was a nightmare. He retired Tim Hudson to start the inning but then gave up a hard-hit double to Andrelton Simmons and walked Chris Johnson. Justin Upton singled to score the Braves’ first run, and Freddie Freeman followed up with a routine fly ball to the warning track in left field that Lucas Duda badly misplayed into a two-run "double." There are many reasons why errors are a flawed concept, and Duda’s non-error was just another example.
Freeman moved to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch by Niese, a pitch that John Buck probably should have had. Niese walked Uggla and induced a grounder from B.J. Upton that should have ended the inning, but David Wright misplayed it at third base. Like Duda, he wasn’t charged with an error. With the inning still alive, Reed Johnson singled to plate the Braves’ fifth run. Niese walked Hudson before finally retiring Simmons to end the inning.
Daniel Murphy led off the fifth inning with a walk, and David Wright hit a home run to center field to quickly pull the Mets back within three runs of Atlanta. Unfortunately the Mets didn’t do a whole lot else against Hudson in the inning or the rest of his start.
Niese got right back into trouble in the bottom of the inning, allowing a single to Evan Gattis and throwing another wild pitch that let him take second base. He proceeded to walk Uggla and B.J. Upton to loaded the bases, and his day was done.
Through seven starts, Niese’s numbers are worrisome. With three strikeouts and six walks in four innings, he has now struck out just 4.91 batters per nine innings and walked 4.66, the latter of which also happens to be his ERA. Two of his starts did come in the cold weather of Minneapolis and Denver, but his strikeout and walk numbers have never looked this bad over the course of a season.
Jeurys Familia took over for Niese with the bases loaded and nobody out and gave up a weak single to Reed Johnson, making it 7-2 in favor of the Braves. But he got out of the inning without allowing another run to score.
The Mets didn’t score in the sixth, and Familia gave up a solo home run to Freddie Freeman in the bottom of the inning. In total, Familia pitched two innings, striking out two without issuing a walk. The home run he yielded wasn’t ideal, but he’s had worse outings than he had today.
Tim Hudson kept the Mets off the board again in the seventh, and Brandon Lyon did the same in the bottom half. But in the top of the eighth, Mike Baxter pinch hit for Lyon and led off with a double. Hudson struck out Ruben Tejada, but that was the last batter he faced as Atlanta turned to Luis Avilan out of the bullpen.
Murphy lined out, Baxter moved to third on a wild pitch, and Wright drew a walk. With runners on the corners and two out, Lucas Duda took four pitches to get ahead in the count and singled through the right side to score Baxter.
The Braves went to the pen again, calling upon Cory Gearring, who hit John Buck with a pitch. They went right back to the bullpen for Eric O’Flaherty, prompting Terry Collins to send up Justin Turner as a pinch hitter for the struggling Ike Davis. Turner worked a walk to cut the Mets’ deficit to four, but Marlon Byrd came up an struck out to end the inning on a pitch that would have very likely been ball four. Despite the threat to make it a very close game, the Mets were still down by four.
Robert Carson allowed a couple of baserunners in the bottom of the eighth, and Scott Atchison took over and gave up a sacrifice fly to Evan Gattis to give the Braves their ninth run of the day. Anthony Varvaro took over to pitch the ninth and set the Mets down in order to end the game.
The Mets are off tomorrow, but they’ll be back in action at Citi Field on Tuesday at 7:10 pm with Matt Harvey making the start against the Chicago White Sox.
SB Nation Coverage
* Amazin' Avenue Gamethread
* Talking Chop Gamethread
Win Probability Added
Big winners: David Wright, +8.5% WPA
Big losers: Jon Niese, -31.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: David Wright's two-run home run in the fifth, +8.2% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Freddie Freeman's "double" to left in the third, -15.2% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: -33.9% WPA
Total batter WPA: -16.1% WPA
GWRBI!: Reed Johnson