From the way this series played out, you’d think the team that came away with a sweep was fighting hard for a postseason spot, rather than to avoid a 100-loss season. And yet, baseball is baseball, and it was the Braves who completed a riotous upset and capped their three-game sweep with a come-from-behind victory against the reeling Mets.
While the outcome was fortuitous, the early and middle innings suggested that the Braves might end the night in defeat. Ryan Weber, pressed into his second start of the season due to a dismantled rotation corps, allowed a four-pitch walk to Jose Reyes to start his outing, and four pitches later, threw a sinker that didn’t sink that Asdrubal Cabrera deposited deep into the right field stands. Weber actually rebounded fairly well against a relatively depleted Mets lineup, as he faced just one batter over the minimum following Cabrera’s homer through the fourth inning.
His mound opponent, Bartolo Colon, appeared to have the Braves well in hand. The Braves managed just two singles through five innings, and Colon, not known for racking up punchouts at this point, still struck out five Braves in that span. Colon got an extra boost in the bottom of the fifth, when catcher Rene Rivera (33 years old, 25 career homers, 63 career wRC+, is not Sandy Leon) tagged Weber for a solo shot on a sinker at the letters.
Weber yielded to John Gant in the sixth, but the fireworks for the Braves didn’t start until the seventh, when backup catcher Anthony Recker turned a Nick Markakis one-out single into a deficit-trimming affair by taking a 1-1 Colon fastball the other way for a two-run shot. The Braves chased Colon later in the inning with a two-out Dansby Swanson single, but didn’t manage anything else in the frame.
Brandon Cunniff (!) worked a scoreless (!) bottom of the seventh, setting up the Braves in the top of the eighth. First, Ender Inciarte reached base on a fielding error by Mets’ first baseman James Loney, that arguably could have been ruled a hit. After Adonis Garcia made an out, Freddie Freeman continued to torment the Mets with a one-out single off of lefty reliever Josh Smoker, who entered the game specifically to face him. Inciarte then did a very Inciarte thing by stealing third base, putting himself in game-tying sacrifice fly position. The Mets brought on closer Jeurys Familia in the suddenly high leverage situation, but Matt Kemp obliged Inciarte’s initiative by hitting a sac fly anyway. Inciarte actually ran through a stop sign from third base Bo Porter to score the run, and the throw from left field (courtesy of famed outfield assist generator Yoenis Cespedes) was way off the mark.
The Mets attempted to take back the lead in the bottom of the inning, courtesy of Brandon Cunniff’s ill-advised second inning of work and a deep Cespedes fly ball that resulted in one of the most amusing plays I’ve seen this year, where Matt Kemp twisted, turned, had the ball bounce off the heel of his glove (but kept it in the park!) and then went to his knees. Cespedes got a double, and the Braves then played matchups with the bullpen after an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson, getting Chaz Roe to strike out TJ Rivera and then going to Ian Krol, who intentionally walked one righty pinch hitter before striking out the other (Kevin Plawecki) with the bases loaded to preserve the tie.
The ninth proved a fitting capstone to this game. Jace Peterson hit a seeing-eye grounder to right to start the inning and was bunted to second by Dansby Swanson, who was nearly drilled in the chest with a pitch prior to successfully getting the bunt down. Pinch-hitter and perennial roster barnacle Emilio Bonifacio then chipped in with a single to push the go-ahead run to third, and Inciarte capitalized on the Mets’ misfortune with a slow roller that went for an RBI groundout, scoring Peterson.
Inciarte wasn’t done with his exciting game yet — in the bottom of the ninth, Jim Johnson got into a bit of hot water, allowing a leadoff single and then issuing a one-out walk. With two outs, Johnson had to face Cespedes, whom he struck out last night to end the game. Johnson didn’t quite bury a 95-mile-per-hour fastball inside or low enough on the 0-1 pitch, and Cespedes attempted to muscle it out to center to the best extent he could.
In fact, the ball would have gone over the fence... had Ender Inciarte not sped over to the wall and jumped just enough to hook his glove and snatch victory from the jaws of what would have been a very agonizing defeat. Basically, Ender Inciarte is super awesome. Yay, everyone. Just check out how pumped this team is. You’d never know they were eliminated from the playoffs approximately eight millennia ago.
Ryan Weber lasted five innings of four-hit, three-run ball, with two walks, three strikeouts, and two homers allowed. Inciarte somehow went hitless but obviously came up huge throughout the game; Freeman continued his onslaught against major league pitching with two more hits. Dansby Swanson got another hit, pushing his average to .314 on the year.