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Mets vs. Braves recap: Bartolo pitches a gem, but Mets come up short at the plate

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Bartolo Colon was magnificent, but the Mets lost.

MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Banged up though they may be, the Mets should be beating the Braves with a lot more regularity than they have lately. And after a loss in Atlanta on Thursday night, they bounced back with a couple of wins there on Friday and Saturday. But they again lost to the Braves—one of baseball’s very worst teams this year—on Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t Bartolo Colon’s fault. The 43-year-old gave up just one run—on a Freddie Freeman solo home run in the first inning—in seven innings of work. He now has a 2.86 ERA in 2016, and that’s the 18th-best mark among qualified starting pitchers. He struck out two, walked one, and threw just 84 pitches in his start, and based on the results, you wouldn’t have known that just a few days ago, he had to leave a start after one out because he was struck on his right thumb by a line drive off the bat of the only batter he faced.

That one run held up for the Braves through the top of the eighth inning. The Mets didn’t exactly play their best lineup, as Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Travis d’Arnaud were all on the bench for the majority of the game. But the lineup they rolled out did not score in those eight innings.

They threatened twice, in both the fifth and sixth innings. In the former, James Loney and Wilmer Flores hit back-to-back singles to begin the inning. But Brandon Nimmo, who made his major league debut and went 0-for-4 in it, grounded out before Rene Rivera and Colon struck out to end the inning. In the latter, Kelly Johnson led off the inning with a single and stole second on a hit-and-run on which Matt Reynolds swung and missed. But Reynolds struck out, Yoenis Cespedes fouled out, and Neil Walker grounded out to end the inning.

So the Braves led 1-0 going into the bottom of the eighth, and a series of unfortunate events helped them score four more times. Antonio Bastardo allowed an infield single to Ender Inciarte start the inning. He balked, and Inciarte moved to second. And Bastardo didn’t see Inciarte taking a huge lead off second as Freeman walked, which allowed Inciarte to steal third.

Nick Markakis singled to make it 2-0, and that ended Bastardo’s day. Logan Verrett took over and gave up a three-run home run to Adonis Garcia. The Braves led 5-0.

With Arodys Vizcaino not in the game to start the ninth inning because of the size of Atlanta’s lead, the Mets put together a brief but insufficient rally. Reynolds doubled and advanced to third on an error on the play, and he scored on a ground out by Cespedes. Neil Walker doubled, and one out later, he scored on a Wilmer Flores single. That got Vizcaino in the game, and he struck out Brandon Nimmo to end the game.

Despite the Mets’ problems over the past several weeks, they go into Monday’s series opener in Washington just three games back of first place. They’d need a sweep to come out of the series in a tie for first place, but even a series win would be pretty great. The Nationals won on Sunday afternoon, but they had been reeling about as much as anyone in baseball, as they lost seven consecutive games before winning that one.

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Win Probability Added

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Bartolo Colon, +18.9% WPA
Big losers: Rene Rivera, -12.1% WPA, Matt Reynolds, -10.4% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Wilmer Flores singles to put runners on first and second with nobody out in the fifth, +8.3% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Freddie Freeman hits a solo home run in the first, -11.1% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +6.9% WPA
Total batter WPA: -56.9% WPA
GWRBI!: Adonis Garcia