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Braves falter late in 4-3 defeat as Mets walk off

Ender Inciarte collected his 200th hit of the year and the Braves jumped out to an early lead, but shaky defense and relief pitching sunk the Braves in the late innings

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Mets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Like many things in life, this game was fun... until it wasn’t. The Braves jumped out to an early lead, and through six innings, it looked like they might cruise behind those runs and a dominant R.A. Dickey. But, things quickly went south, and by the time the ninth rolled around, the Braves were in prime position to give up a walkoff victory to their divisional rivals.

Probably the best thing in the game happened at the very beginning: Ender Inciarte collected his 200th hit of the year. The hit was a double into the right field corner, and for a second, it looked like it was going to be typical Braves: the next two hitters made routine outs. Luckily, Nick Markakis came through out of the cleanup spot, doubling on a slider from New York starter Rafael Montero to bring Inciarte across the plate for the game’s first run.

More doubles led to more Atlanta runs in the second. Dansby Swanson drew a leadoff walk, and scored easily from first on a Jace Peterson double. After a sacrifice bunt moved Peterson to second, Ozzie Albies came through with a two-out single served to left field to score Peterson, granting the Braves a 3-0 lead.

After that, the game settled in to a comfortable, quiet set of middle innings. R.A. Dickey retired 13 straight Mets from the second inning through the first batter of the seventh; Montero didn’t manage a clean inning all game, but still kept the Braves off the board. The Braves had a prime scoring chance in the seventh, as Albies and Freddie Freeman singled to start the frame, but Nick Markakis and Tyler Flowers both struck out against Josh Smoker and Hansel Robles of the Mets’ relief corps, respectively, and Johan Camargo popped out to end the threat. That was beginning of the unraveling for the Braves.

Dickey had thrown just 62 pitches through six frames, but the seventh was not a happy occasion for him. After retiring the first batter, he allowed a single to Brandon Nimmo, a two-run homer to Kevin Plawecki (he of the 64 career wRC+ and six career homers coming into this game), and then a two-out triple to Amed Rosario. With the tying run on third, Dickey was sent to the showers, but Daniel Winkler came on and overpowered Travis Taijeron with a nasty 95 mph fastball that buzzsawed below the knees to preserve the lead.

It was, however, for naught. The Braves wasted a leadoff walk in the top of the inning, which brought Sam Freeman in to try to hold the one-run advantage. Freeman issued an uncharacteristic one-out walk to Nori Aoki (Freeman had walked just five of the 100 lefty hitters he’d faced this season to date), and put Jose Reyes into an 0-2 hole before Reyes hit a weak dribbler to third base. The ball was fielded by Camargo, who made a surprisingly weak throw that handcuffed Freddie Freeman, skipping off his glove and putting runners at second and third with one out. Asdrubal Cabrera then mashed the very next pitch on a line into center field, but Ender Inciarte pseudo-saved the day with a great running catch, turning what could have been a go-ahead hit into only a game-tying sacrifice fly. Freeman then bounced back to retire Brandon Nimmo, sending the game to the ninth knotted at three apiece.

The Braves managed just a two-out Nick Markakis single against Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia, which brought on A.J. Minter as the Mets ventured into walkoff territory. Minter gave up an 0-2 single to Plawecki. Then, showing wildness, Minter issued a six-pitch walk to Dominic Smith, in a sequence where pretty much none of his pitches were particularly over the plate. He then punched out Amed Rosario, but the line stopped there: his sixth pitch to Travis Taijeron was driven deep to left, over the head of Jace Peterson (playing in given the winning run’s presence on second base) to serve up a walkoff defeat to the Braves. It was Minter’s first career loss, and the 11th defeat handed to the Braves by the Mets this year.

R.A. Dickey ended up lasting six and two-thirds, allowing two runs on five hits and zero walks, with four strikeouts. The Braves once again did surprisingly little against Rafael Montero, managing just the three runs despite eight hits and two walks, with just three strikeouts. It was a tough night for Johan Camargo: in addition to the costly defensive miscue, he went 0-for-4 (the only Atlanta hitter to not get a hit), hit into a double play, and ended four separate innings, each with at least one man on base. The Braves lost despite out-hitting the Mets 11-7, and drawing three walks to the Mets’ two.

These two teams square off for a final time in 2017 tomorrow night. The Braves will send Sean Newcomb to the hill; the Mets will counter with Robert Gsellman.

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