After an exciting pitching duel that saw Julio Teheran and Jacob deGrom battle to a scoreless standstill over seven innings, the Braves coughed up the lead in the eighth and then furiously stormed back, delivering a 4-3 walkoff win in thrilling fashion on Saturday night. Trailing by one in the ninth, Dansby Swanson, Johan Camargo, and Ender Inciarte combined to ruin Jeurys Familia’s night and send the hometown folks home happy.
Before all that transpired, though, the fans watching in the stands and on TV were treated to a gem of a pitcher’s duel. Jacob deGrom was on point for New York, tossing four and two-thirds hitless frames before an opposite-field liner by Carlos Perez (yes, Carlos Perez) broke up the no-hit bid. Teheran was not quite so stingy himself, having allowed three hits to that point, but still managed to keep the Mets off the board. Most impressive was Teheran’s third inning: after allowing back-to-back one-out singles, Teheran pumped in 10 straight strikes to Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera, striking both out on sizzling sliders just below the zone. Then, in the fifth, with two runners on once again, Teheran coaxed a picture-perfect roller back to the mound on a 3-1 fastball out of the zone thrown to Michael Conforto, which became a 1-6-3 double play that ended the inning.
In the sixth, the Braves were denied a potential run in disappointing fashion. Ender Inciarte led off the half-inning with an infield hit and immediately stole second with nary a chance to throw him out. On the next pitch, Inciarte went flying towards third and successfully stole the base... or he would have had a replay review not ruled that he came off the bag. This baserunning blunder proved to be painful two batters later, as Freddie Freeman mashed a liner into the gap for what would have been a run-scoring hit whether Inciarte stole any bases or not. With Freeman on second and two out, Nick Markakis popped out to end the inning.
Both Teheran and deGrom ended their nights on relative high notes. Teheran had a quiet top half, throwing just nine pitches to retire the side in order. deGrom struck out the side, working around a Dansby Swanson single and stolen base in the process.
In the eighth, the game appeared to slip away from the Braves, due to a bevy of mistakes. Sam Freeman came on and immediately fell victim to the bane of this Atlanta bullpen thus far, issuing a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores. Jose Reyes then surprised the Atlanta infield with a bunt try. The ball was fielded by Carlos Perez, but Freddie Freeman failed to return to first and Ozzie Albies took too long to get to the first base bag, putting men on first and second with none out. Freeman then got Conforto to ground to Johan Camargo at third. Camargo fielded the ball to his side and slung it to second, where Albies appeared to have caught the ball and dropped it on the transfer. However, the Mets challenged and the mystical arts of the replay review determined that Albies actually never had control of the ball, loading the bases with none out and drawing a mass of portentous clouds over SunTrust Park.
Brian Snitker relieved Sam Freeman of duty and summoned Shane Carle from the bullpen. Carle, who had stranded each inherited runner he had been given so far, started off well, getting a weak fly out to right off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. However, that’s where the luck ended: Asdrubal Cabrera hooked a 1-0 pitch from Carle that was way, way outside into right field, scoring the first two runs of the game. Two pitches later, Jay Bruce hit a liner into center. Ender Inciarte charged the ball but failed to come up with it cleanly; a third run scored. Fortunately, Carle struck out Todd Frazier, and after an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez, retired Jose Lobaton on a liner that Preston Tucker nearly lost in the lights.
Down 3-0, the Braves had their work cut out for them, and work they did. The Mets brought in A.J. Ramos to preserve the lead. Ramos yielded a leadoff walk to Ryan Flaherty and then a one-out, four-pitch walk to Ozzie Albies. That prompted Mets manager Mickey Callaway to go get Jerry Blevins, his lefty specialist, to face Freddie Freeman. While the right call, it burned Callaway this time: Blevins tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball in the zone past Freeman and was punished for it, as Freeman socked the ball into left for a two-run double. Unlike Freeman, Nick Markakis was not able to do anything against Blevins (the Braves elected not to pinch hit (Blevins has a 2.50 career FIP against lefties and a 4.64 career FIP against righties) and struck out. Callaway then did something perhaps unorthodox, pulling Blevins to insert closer Jeurys Familia into the game as New York’s third pitcher of the inning. This was a little strange as the next batter, Preston Tucker, was also a lefty. Fortunately for Callaway, but unfortunately for the Braves, Familia carved up Tucker on four pitches, striking him out looking to keep the Braves down by one run.
The ninth saw something new for the Braves and baseball: the major league debut of Jesse Biddle. Biddle retired the first two batters he faced on groundouts, needing just three pitches to do so. But, Michael Conforto gave him a tougher battle, ultimately drawing a walk, and then stealing second and taking third on a Carlos Perez throwing error. Yoenis Cespedes then gave the Braves and their fans a minor heart attack by drilling a pitch foul into the left field stands, that was inexplicably (and very briefly) ruled a home run before sanity and reason prevailed on the field; Cespedes rolled out to short two pitches later.
That set the stage for a thrilling comeback victory. Familia came back out of the Mets’ dugout and proceeded to do what all relievers everywhere do all the time now, apparently: walk the leadoff batter in the form of Dansby Swanson, on four pitches, no less. He then fell behind to Johan Camargo, who slammed a 2-1 sinker on the ground past a diving Asdrubal Cabrera at second. Not only did the ball get past Cabrera, it zipped right to the wall, as Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce failed to cut it off. Swanson sped around to score the tying run, and Camargo easily reached third as the winning run.
The Braves called on Kurt Suzuki to pinch hit, and another weird thing happened: Suzuki smashed a ball off Todd Frazier at third base. Camargo did not advance (and that would have been unwise), but Suzuki easily reached first. Charlie Culberson, pinch-hitting in the pitcher’s spot, then struck out, setting up Ender Inciarte for the game-winning plate appearance.
The drag bunt sealed the victory, giving the Braves a 2-1 series advantage heading into Sunday’s capper.
Both starters finished the game with impressive lines despite not ultimately factoring into the decision. deGrom allowed just four hits and two walks in seven innings while striking out ten; Teheran allowed four hits and one walk with six strikeouts of his own. Inciarte and Freeman both collected two hits for the Braves; Freeman’s two doubles broke him out of a mini-funk that he’d endured since getting hit with a pitch a few games ago. Yoenis Cespedes suffered another brutal game, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Jose Reyes broke out of his season-long hitless streak in a big way, going 3-for-4 and stealing a base, but it was for naught.
The Braves go for the series victory tomorrow afternoon, with Mike Foltynewicz set to duel Zack Wheeler.