Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me. Fool me four times? We have a problem. The New York Mets have a problem. For the fourth time in a week, they failed to beat the worst team in National League. On Thursday night, in the 45th-from-last ever game at Turner Field, the last-place Atlanta Braves defeated the defending National League champions 4-3.
Last weekend in Queens, the Braves swept a three game series in what looked sure to be, from a Mets perspective, the low point of the season. A starting rotation that projected at the beginning of the season to be near untouchable looked very average, and the offense seemed completely inept. Things had to get better.
Over midweek, things did. Two tight home wins against the defending world champion Kansas City Royals restored a chunk of confidence to a team that was in desperate need of some, and gave the Mets a bit of momentum heading down to Atlanta. In the bottom of the eighth inning of Thursday’s game, Adonis Garcia shot that momentum into the left field bleachers of Turner Field.
The Mets had Matt Harvey on the mound against the Braves for the second consecutive start, and things went far better the second time around. He was hardly dominant, but Harvey looked like the better man against every Atlanta hitter not named AJ Pierzynski, who drove in the only two runs Harvey allowed in six innings. He managed just a discouraging three strikeouts against a bottom-tier lineup, but overall it can comfortably be said that Harvey did his job.
The same cannot be said about the Mets’ paper mache offense. With Yoenis Cespedes out resting a sore wrist, James Loney found his name in the third spot on the lineup card. Travis d’Arnaud made a second consecutive start at catcher since returning from the disabled list, but was unable to notch his first base hit since April 25. Alejandro de Aza replaced Cespedes in center field, and opened the scoring with an RBI double in the second inning off Braves right-handed starter Matt Wisler, who surrendered three runs in 6.2 IP. Neil Walker, batting in the cleanup spot, drove in runs in both the third and fifth innings. By the time Harvey left the game after the sixth inning, the Mets led the Braves 3-2, having scored three runs without the long ball.
The Braves’ bats looked strongest against the Mets’ bullpen. In the bottom of the seventh, with one out and runners on second and third, Ender Inciarte lofted a fly ball into foul ground in left field. Rather than letting the ball drop foul, Michael Conforto gloved and immediately fired the ball home. Emilio Bonifacio, the tagging runner, slid awkwardly into d’Arnaud, who blocked the plate in what was deemed a legal fashion. After review, it was determined that the tag had been placed on Bonifacio before he touched the plate. Braves interim manager Brian Snitker was ejected after arguing the call, and the Mets escaped the seventh with their lead intact.
An inning later, with one man on and one out, Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia connected on a belt-high, plate-splitting, 0-2 fastball from Addison Reed that flipped a one-run deficit to a one-run lead for Atlanta. It proved to be the game-winning swing as the Mets’ bats looked completely feeble in the top of the ninth.
As it stands, the Mets fall back to four games behind the Nationals who had Thursday off. On paper, it would seem that the Mets have two very winnable games left to play in Atlanta. But as the Braves have shown now four times over, they won’t be beaten on paper. Steven Matz will have the ball for the Mets on Friday night, and will look to restore some shred of order to the baseball galaxy.
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Neil Walker, 19%
Big losers: Addison Reed, -55%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Alejandro De Aza’s RBI Double
Teh sux0rest play: Garcia homers off Reed
Total pitcher WPA: -36 %pWPA
Total batter WPA: -14% bWPA
GWRBI!: Adonis Garcia