1 huge positive from Mets near-miss loss to Braves

The Braves have dominated the Mets of late, but Tuesday's loss provided some optimism that the tide could be turning
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves
New York Mets v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

It's tough being the little brother. The New York Mets know this all too well. Too often in the recent history of their rivalry with the Atlanta Braves, our favorite baseball team has been put in a headlock and given a noogie by a division rival that has been better in pretty much every way.

If Mets fans are honest with ourselves, that figures to continue this year. The Braves are loaded once again, with a young core that can hit and pitch as well as any team in the league. The Mets are... fine? Maybe? We can root root root for the home team all we want, but the truth is that eking out a Wild Card spot is probably the absolute ceiling for the boys in blue and orange.

Case in point: when the Mets hung on for a series-opening 8-7 win on Monday night, how did you feel? I'm guessing that, like me, you experienced a mixture of relief and surprise. The Mets always find a way to blow it against Atlanta, so to see the Braves fall just short in their comeback attempt was a welcome, if shocking, change.

No Mets fan expected that win to spark the team to a series sweep, and as expected, the Braves bounced back to even the score on Tuesday night. While the Mets found themselves this time on the wrong end of a close-but-no-cigar comeback in falling 6-5, the team can take one huge positive out of the loss that shows that maybe the little brother is growing up.

The Mets finally got to the Braves bullpen

For much of the game, it looked like the Braves had re-asserted themselves as the alpha dogs in the NL East. Atlanta got to Mets starter Adrian Houser early and often, Braves starter Reynaldo Lopez was lights out, and frequent tormentor Ronald Acuna Jr. terrorized the Mets at the plate and on the bases, going 2-3 with three steals.

This game had all the makings of a runaway Atlanta victory, but then something funny happened: the Mets kept fighting. Houser buckled down and got through five innings. Dedniel Nunez made his major league debut and held his own. Most encouragingly, the Mets' bats woke up. Omar Narvaez continued his hot start with a single to open the eighth. Brandon Nimmo singled, too. Then Pete Alonso took a Tyler Matzek fastball and blasted it over the left-center field wall to make it 6-3.

Matzek entered the game having held the Mets scoreless in 13 of his 15 prior relief appearances, so being able to touch him up for three runs was huge. He wasn't the only seemingly invincible Braves reliever to struggle, either, as the Mets continued their rally in the ninth off of closer Raisel Iglesias.

Iglesias came into the game with a 1.63 lifetime ERA versus the Mets in 22 appearances, but he labored through this appearance as the Mets onslaught continued. Harrison Bader lined a single to center to lead off, then Narvaez again came through, this time with a double to the gap in right-center. Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte both grounded out, but with the Mets down to their final out, Francisco Lindor, who has struggled mightily to start the season, jumped on a first-pitch fastball to keep the game alive with a single.

It all came down to Alonso. The Polar Bear battled for five pitches before ultimately striking out on the sixth, a nasty 2-2 changeup down in the zone. Iglesias survived, but not before giving up two runs on three hits and 23 pitches. This was the second straight night that the Mets hurt Atlanta's bullpen, as they got to AJ Minter and Pierce Johnson for four runs in less than two innings on Monday.

Showing an ability to fight back late in games is a great sign for the Mets, especially after digging themselves an 0-5 hole to start the season. It's especially encouraging against the Braves, who have had such a stranglehold on this lopsided rivalry. The Mets aren't at the Braves' level yet, but for the first time, they may be showing signs of getting there.