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Mets claw and fall short in Game 1 of Braves doubleheader

Mets offense keeps pace, but can’t overtake onslaught from Braves

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Facing an early Cy Young candidate in Spencer Strider, the Mets stayed alive throughout the game but couldn’t quite overtake the Braves offense as they fell 9-8 in the opening game of Monday’s doubleheader at Citi Field.

In only the second start of his career, Denyi Reyes gave up leadoff back-to-back singles to Ronald Acuña and Matt Olson before giving up a one-out, three-run home run to Sean Murphy. They were the first runs Reyes had given up all season, continuing the pitching staff’s season-long struggles in first innings. Winning this end of the doubleheader already looked bleak for the Mets offense facing early Cy Young candidate Spencer Strider, and they began the game down 3-0 before even seeing a pitch.

It’s a good thing no one told Brandon Nimmo the odds. Nimmo led off the bottom of the first by smacking a hanging slider to the top of the wall in right field, missing a home run by just a foot and ending up on third base, anyway. Starling Marte followed with a walk, and Lindor continued his torrid streak against Strider with an RBI single. The lineup kept Strider busy, eventually loading the bases with two outs, but a Brett Bay strikeout ended the inning with the Mets down 3-1.

The Braves recovered that lost run and more with Kevin Pillar’s two-run home run in the top of the second inning, giving the Braves a 5-1 lead and knocking Reyes out of the game. John Curtiss couldn’t slow the onslaught, immediately giving up a monstrous home run to Acuña that landed in the third deck in left center. The game seemed lost, but only for an inning.

After Marte and Lindor led off the bottom of the third inning with a single and a walk, Pete Alonso cleared the bases with a three-run home run to right-center, cutting the Braves' lead to two runs. The Mets lineup gave Strider his most challenging start of the season, but Strider settled down the third time through the order, exiting the game after five innings with a 6-4 lead.

Mets’ pitching also settled down, with Curtiss and Stephen Nogosek producing 1-2-3 innings in the third, fourth, and fifth. Nogosek looked especially strong in his return to action, retiring eight straight batters before leaving in the sixth. With two runners on, Jeff Brigham shut down the sixth and gave the Mets an opportunity to claw back in the bottom of the inning.

Baty capitalized immediately, sending a solo home run to right center to lead off the inning to bring the Mets within one run. A walk, sac bunt, and groundout put Tommy Pham as the tying run on third base with two outs, but a Marte fly ball to right field finished the inning with the Mets down 6-5.

The good feelings flew away quickly. After giving up a leadoff double to Acuña and a walk to Olson, Brigham gave up Murphy’s second three-run home run of the day, extending the Braves’ lead to four runs. Brigham finished the inning cleanly, but not before allowing the finishing blow.

Or was it? Collin McHugh entered the game for the Braves in the bottom of the seventh and immediately hit Lindor and Alonso before loading the bases on a single to Jeff McNeil. A ground ball from Daniel Vogelbach looked to trade a run for the first two outs, but an errant throw allowed for both Lindor and Alonso to score, bringing the score to 9-7 before the inning ended. Three strikeouts from Tommy Hunter in the top of the eighth gave the Mets lineup hope, once again.

Eduardo Escobar repaid that hope with a pinch-hit, two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, once again bringing the Mets to within a run. But as the only Met player with multiple hits on the day, Baty couldn’t cash in a third, ending the game on a smoked line drive to right field.

The Mets fall to 15-13 on the season, now in third place and four games behind the division-leading Braves.

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What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Francisco Lindor +16% WPA

Big Mets loser: Denyi Reyes -41% WPA

Mets pitchers: -53% WPA

Mets hitters: 3% WPA

Teh aw3s0mest play: Pete Alonso home run, +15% WPA

Teh sux0rest plays: Sean Murphy’s first home run, +23.7 WPA, Sean Murphy’s second home run, +19.8% WPA