At one point in this game, the Braves trailed 8-2, and as we’ve seen many a time before, the team seemed content to bleed more runs in the middle innings in order to preserve the freshness of its pitching staff. But, just like we’ve also seen many times before, especially in the last few years, that early deficit did not deter the bats. A furious five-run rally in the eighth, capped by Travis d’Arnaud’s bases-clearing, go-ahead double, gave the Braves a thrilling 11-10 victory over the visiting Mets.
This game was a rematch of Sunday’s contest featuring Rick Porcello and Sean Newcomb, which was a very different game. In that one, the Braves crushed Porcello and coasted to a 14-1 win despite Newcomb struggling with his command. In this one, well... most things were pretty different, aside from both Porcello and Newcomb failing to have effective outings.
One thing that wasn’t different, though, was the Braves jumping on Porcello early. After Newcomb had a quick 1-2-3 top of the first, four straight two-out singles (Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna, Matt Adams, Travis d’Arnaud) gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead. That lead held for quite a while, as both Newcomb and Porcello settled in and threw up zeroes. But, in the top of the fourth, Newcomb’s effectiveness unraveled.
The inning started with a lengthy 10-pitch battle against Brandon Nimmo. Newcomb fell behind 3-1 and then threw Nimmo six straight pitches over the plate and letter-high. Nimmo fouled off the first five, but took the sixth, and headed back to the dugout as he was rung up. But, while Newcomb won that battle, that was apparently all he had left in the tank. A five-pitch walk to Pete Alonso followed, and then J.D. Davis tied the game up by hitting a pretty good 3-2 pitch (on the inside edge, a bit above the knees) out to left-center for a dinger. Newcomb got out of the inning, and while the Braves got back-to-back Porcello walks to start their inning, they failed to score.
The fifth started with a Robinson Cano no-doubter on a high, hanging curveball, the ball sailing well over the right-field wall. The Braves were suddenly trailing. Wilson Ramos then dunked a single into right, and Andres Gimenez followed with a successful bunt-for-hit attempt. After a flyout, Nimmo singled, loading the bases and chasing Newcomb from the game. The lefty lasted longer than his first outing, but it still took him 79 pitches to get 13 outs. While his 4/1 K/BB ratio was a huge improvement from his first start... the two homers allowed really were not.
Last Sunday, Newcomb departed early and was replaced with Jhoulys Chacin, who breezed through the Mets’ batters with a bunch of flyouts. Tonight, Chacin did anything but breeze. Entering the game down one, he quickly made it a two-run deficit by walking Alonso on five pitches. (It would’ve maybe been four pitches, but Alonso fouled off a borderline 3-0 offering.) Chacin bounced back to strike out Davis on three pitches, but then the world tumbled into chaos. Another walk scored another run. A double scored two more, and a Cano single, his second hit of the inning, made it 8-2. Chacin finally struck out Ramos to end the inning.
The Braves, though, kept up their persistent needling of New York’s pitching. Porcello was not emboldened by his now-giant lead; just like Newcomb on Sunday, he kind of completely disintegrated, giving up a four-pitch walk to Dansby Swanson. After Freeman reached on a dropped pop into left field, Porcello was gone (4+ IP, 3 BB, 5 K) and replaced by Paul Sewald, one of the Mets the Braves beat up on after Porcello left the game on Sunday night. They did the same here. With one out, Adams doubled down the line; d’Arnaud’s second single brought in Atlanta’s fourth run. Austin Riley followed with what could have been a double play ball but ended up as a forceout and a relay throw not snagged by Alonso at first, giving the Braves a fifth run as Adams was able to score on the play.
But, even though the Braves had narrowed the margin to three runs, it immediately rubber-banded back. Chacin gave up a cheap homer to Amed Rosario down the left-field line (9-5), and the combination of a weak tapper back to the mound, a throwing error on a steal attempt, and a Davis single scored New York’s tenth run. Tyler Matzek had to come in to get the last out of the top of the sixth.
Back up by five, the Mets pulled Sewald for former Brave Chasen Shreve, who also got punctured a bit. Shreve walked Ender Inciarte (despite the lefty-lefty situation), and then yielded a run when Swanson rocketed a double off the wall in right with one out. However, Shreve punched out both Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freeman. Ozuna obliterated a liner on a grooved fastball, but it was hit right to Gimenez at third, and the Braves were stymied at 10-6.
For the first time in a while, the game was calm in the seventh. Matzek shut down the Mets, striking out both Cano and Ramos. Shreve stayed in and struck out the side, making pinch-hitter Johan Camargo, d’Arnaud, and Riley all look pretty bad.
Grant Dayton worked a scoreless top of the eighth, and then the real fun began (for the Braves, not for the Mets). Dellin Betances took over for Shreve, and did not have a good time of it. Adeiny Hechavarria, making his first start of the year, greeted him with a liner single. Inciarte then drew a walk. Betances struck out Acuña in a brutal sequence that saw the latter watch a fastball down the middle for strike two, and then a curveball hanging over the plate for strike three, but Swanson came through again, poking a single to right to make it 10-7. Enter additional chaos. The Braves elected to double steal with Freeman at the plate (why?) and it didn’t hurt them, as Swanson slid in ahead of the tag at second. Betances then walked Freeman on four pitches, with the last one skipping away and allowing Inciarte to score. The umpires actually reviewed the play at the plate, as Betances’ slide shoved Inciarte away as he made the tag, but Inciarte was ruled safe.
So, with the score now at 10-8, and the tying runs on base, out came generally highly-effective relief human Seth Lugo. But, he was not highly effective here, a theme for Mets pitching (and really Braves pitching too). Lugo walked Ozuna to load the bases. Camargo had a chance to be the hero, but popped out weakly to right, creating a real issue: a hit would likely tie the game, but an out would put the Braves down two with one inning remaining.
Travis d’Arnaud, well, he didn’t think this was much of an issue at all:
Just like that, the Braves had their first lead since the third. They wouldn’t relinquish it, either — Chris Martin had a bit of an adventure in the ninth (one-out single, two-out walk), but locked it down when Ramos flew out to deep right to end the game.
The Braves have now won three straight, as the Mets have lost three in a row. It was a terrible night for pitching (every Mets pitcher allowed at least one run), but a fun night for hitting: Swanson kept up his torrid pace with two hits and a walk, while d’Arnaud played hero, got three RBI hits, and drove in five total.
These two teams tangle again and again over the next three days, provided the season remains in play. Stay tuned, the Braves are still incredibly fun.