It took extra innings, but the Braves managed to snatch victory from the jaws of disappointment, as Adonis Garcia hit a two-out walkoff single in the bottom of the 10th to the top the Mets by a 4-3 score and even the weekend series at one game apiece. The win snapped Atlanta’s four-game losing skid, as well as the Mets’ six-game winning streak.
John Gant took the hill for the Braves in the top of the first for his sixth career start, and the first inning hiccuped a bit for him. He walked Jose Reyes to start the game, and two consecutive potential double play balls with one out were botched by the infield defense behind him. The latter of these resulted in Reyes scoring the first run of the game. After that, Jay Bruce hit an RBI grounder for the second run of the frame, but Gant was able to strike out Wilmer Flores to staunch the bleeding.
The Braves got one of those runs back in the bottom of the frame: Ender Inciarte doubled and Garcia walked to start the inning against Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon. After Freddie Freeman beat out a grounder that forced Garcia at second, Matt Kemp hit a sacrifice fly for the first Atlanta run.
Gant settled down after the first, but so did Colon. Both teams were held scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, when Nick Markakis, leading off the inning, drilled a Colon offering into right center to tie the game. Unfortunately, the Mets came right back in the top of the fifth, as Yoenis Cespedes obliterated a hanging changeup from Gant to untie the game. Gant followed that up with a walk to Curtis Granderson, and after a wild pitch, Brian Snitker had Gant issue a free pass to Jay Bruce and then pulled him for Brandon Cunniff.
Gant ended his day with 87 pitches, four hits, four walks, and six strikeouts. He allowed three runs, but just one was earned. Luckily for his ERA, Brandon Cunniff was (surprisingly?) able to get Wilmer Flores to fly out to strand the additional runs.
The Braves didn’t wait long to tie the game again, this time on a Matt Kemp solo homer in the bottom of the sixth. The monster shot came with one out and the New York outfield didn’t even move, as it was a no-doubter. Shae Simmons and Jose Ramirez breezed through the New York attack in the sixth and seventh, but Ian Krol ran into some trouble in the eighth: he gave up a two-out double to Flores and a pinch-hit single to T.J. Rivera, but Nick Markakis was able (!) to gun down Flores on a throw to AJ Pierzynski at home plate to keep the game tied.
And tied was how it stayed until the bottom of the 10th. In fact, there was not a single baserunner between Markakis’ assist and the bottom of the 10th (Jim Johnson and Matt Withrow worked perfect innings after Krol’s minor adventure).
The Mets called on Erik Goeddel (brother of the Phillies’ Tyler Goeddel) to pitch, and Dansby Swanson greeted him with a leadoff single. Swanson advanced to second base, and then moved to third on a single through the left side by AJ Pierzynski. The Braves had the walkoff run just 90 feet away in the form of Swanson, but things got dicey, as they’re wont to do for this club. Tyler Flowers, pinch hitting, could not bring Swanson home: he struck out. The Mets called on Josh Smoker to face Inciarte, and Inciarte hit a fly ball to left field that wasn’t deep enough to risk sending Swanson.
Luckily for the Braves (and not so much for the Mets), Adonis Garcia stepped to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch from Smoker that caught too much of the plate, Garcia hit it back up the middle out of reach of the Mets’ shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera, giving the Braves an opportunity to celebrate their fifth walkoff win of the season.
Cannily enough, AJ Pierzynski played a pretty big role in this game despite going just 1-for-3, as he was able to hang on to Markakis’ throw to keep the game tied, and then pushed Swanson to third with his 10th-inning single. So, that makes the timing of this pretty fortuitous:
#Braves Pierzynski hugging all teammates, passed out cigars. He's retiring, apparently right now.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) September 11, 2016
It’s a little unclear what this means, and the above may not be the final word, but if this is it for AJ Pierzynski, at least he went out with a good game under his belt.
The Atlanta bullpen pitched over five scoreless frames in this one; Dansby Swanson was the only Brave with multiple hits, though Garcia also reached base twice. Kemp’s homer was his 30th of the season, while Markakis hit his 10th.