Thursday afternoon the Mets finished up their second series since returning from the All Star Break, playing the final game of a four game set against the Atlanta Braves. The Mets sent out rookie Zack Wheeler against the the Braves’ own rookie in Alex Wood, who made his only other start this season against these Mets, coming on June 18th.
The Braves got on the board in the first inning on an odd play, when Zack Wheeler struck out Evan Gattis on a nasty breaking pitch, but John Buck attempted to backhand it and the ball got by him, which made him rush a throw to first, and the ball ended up hitting both Gattis and then Josh Satin, allowing Reed Johnson to score all the way from second.
It is the second run that Buck has cost the Mets in this series. Wheeler ended up fanning the next batter in Dan Uggla to end the inning, but he was already up at 31 pitches, something that has been an issue in Wheeler’s starts.
Despite a two out single and stolen base by Wright, the Mets chance was squandered in the first.
After two shutout innings from Wheeler, the Mets sent nine men to the plate in the third and took a 4-1 lead. Marlon Byrd drove in Eric Young, Jr. with the first on a single to left, and both he and Daniel Murphy moved up on a misplay by Gattis. Satin worked out a walk and Justin Turner brought in a run with a slow groundout to second. With two outs, John Buck singled to left scoring Byrd and Satin. Juan Lagares was intentionally walked with two outs and Wheeler grounded out to Andrelton Simmons at short to end the threat.
After the inning, Young was removed from the game due to tweaking the same leg he hurt last night after stepping on Tim Hudson on a play at first base.
The Braves got two runs back in the next half as Dan Uggla smacked his 21st homer of the year, pulling the Braves within one run.
Marlon Byrd led off the fifth with a single to right and with one out, Justin Turner hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double play ball to Freddie Freeman. However, it bounced off of Freeman’s glove and into right field and the Mets had runners at second and third with one out. This play bounced Alex Wood from the game, and the Braves brought in Kameron Loe to get them out of the jam.
On the first pitch from Loe, John Buck was jammed on and inside pitch and popped up right back to Loe. Juan Lagares was intentionally walked for the second time, which nearly got out of hand for the braves. Loe threw the first pitch to the backstop, but Byrd held ground at third. Despite working a full count, Zack Wheeler bounced out to third ending the threat.
Freddie Freeman made up for his fifth inning error with a solo homer to deep center to tie things up at four, the second homer off of Wheeler. With the help of a groundout and then a double play, Wheeler did pitch out of the inning without anymore damage done.
It was not long before the Mets went back in front as Brown led off with a double, and advanced to third on a passed ball. Daniel Murphy drove him in with a single to left giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.
David Wright followed with what appeared to be a ground rule double to left and Reed Johnson even put his hands up thinking it was, but the umpires did not agree, so Murphy and Wright kept running which allowed Murphy to score and Wright to get in at third with an RBI triple. Braves’ manager Freddie Gonzalez was ejected after arguing the call. He did appear to be right, as the ball did look to hop over the left field wall and into the grating above the orange line.
After back-to-back strikeouts of Byrd and Turner, John Buck followed with an RBI double to left to push the lead to three. Juan Lagares was not intentionally walked this time around, and grounded out to third, ending the inning with the Mets on top 7-4.
David Aardsma came on for the seventh and although he walked Gerald Laid t start the inning, he worked around it and had himself a scoreless seventh.
Despite Daniel Murphy’s third hit of the game, the Mets were held without a run in the bottom half.
LaTroy Hawkins came on for the eighth inning and looked strong in setup role, posting a 1-2-3 inning.
The Mets had an opportunity to add more to lead in the eighth inning when they loaded the bases, but Kirk Nieuwenhuis was caught looking at a pitch on the outside corner to end the inning.
> Zack Wheeler went six inning giving up four runs, three of them being earned. Despite throwing 31 pitches in the first inning, he recovered enough to go deeper into the game, striking out five. He did give up two home runs, however. His record now stands at 4-1.
> Daniel Murphy went 3-5 at the plate today, and raised his average to .277. He appears to be working his way out of the slump that he had heading into the All Star Break.
> Despite another costly defensive play by John Buck, he made up for it at the dish, going 2-5 with three RBIs in the game. He’s raised his average 20 points since July 5th.
> Marlon Byrd again continues his great comeback year and added three more hits today. His average is now at .282.
> The bullpen pitched three shutout innings in support of Zack Wheeler. Bobby Parnell recorded his 20th save in 24 chances.
> The Mets finish the homestand going 4-3 against the Phillies and Braves, now 10 games behind first place Atlanta.
If Jason Heyward did not make that incredible catch in game one of this series, the Mets would have taken three of four from Atlanta. Although they did not take that game, the Mets played well enough for a split of the series. Zack Wheeler was inconsistent in this one, but was not terrible. He worked out of a first inning jam and got enough offense for the win.
The bullpen has been quite the bright spot recently, and continued today to look great. Parnell has been so strong in the ninth inning for the club, and has been tremendous in the closer role.
John Buck’s defense in this series was far from stellar, and he cost the Mets another run in this one. Luckily for him, he had a few at-bats to make up for it, and he did. His two hits were crucial in the win.
The Mets head to the nation’s capital this weekend to face the Washington Nationals. If there is a time to play them, it is now as the Nationals are struggling mightily. Tomorrow the Mets start the series with a double header.
In the first game Jenry Mejia will make his first big league start of the year against Jordan Zimmerman who has been the Nat’s best pitcher this year.