Coming into this series, some of us have lamented the unjust cruelty of the 2022 baseball season as it pertains to the NL East standings: the Braves boast some great offensive inputs that haven’t turned into stellar results, while the Mets have seemingly adjusted to our new, muted run environment by scoring tons of runs without hitting the ball particularly hard. So, who could have seen this coming? On a chilly night in Queens, former Met Travis d’Arnaud eschewed the hard contact that hadn’t paid dividends for his teammates so far this year. Instead, d’Arnaud collected a pair of weakly-hit doubles — the first tied the game and set the Braves up to take the lead on a sacrifice fly, and the second knocked in two more and gave the Braves some breathing room.
Early on, this game looked about as grim for the Braves as much of the rest of the 2022 season so far. New York starter Chris Bassitt mowed the top of the Braves order down on eight pitches, including a hideous blown strike three call on Ronald Acuña Jr. that could hardly be generously described as borderline. The first Mets plate appearance against Max Fried, meanwhile, resulted in a baserunner as second baseman Ozzie Albies failed to handle a hard-hit hopping grounder. Fried gave up another single in what is now stuck in my mind as “Trademark 2022 Mets” — sub-95 mph, but with a high hit probability, but wriggled out of it with three straight outs in the air afterwards.
d’Arnaud ripped his first hit of the night, a two-out single, in the top of the second, but that was all the Braves managed in the frame. In the bottom half of the inning, the Braves continued to goof. Starling Marte looped a double (again, sub-95 mph, hit probability above 90 percent) to left, moved to third on a fly to center, and scored when Fried’s third straight slider was bounced to where d’Arnaud couldn’t handle it. It was another in a string of bizarre and unfortunate issues the Braves have had — Fried had the batter 0-2 and d’Arnaud barely blocked the 0-1 pitch, and now the Mets were on the board.
After a hangdog top of the third featuring two strikeouts and an Acuña infield single that was initially ruled out by the first base umpire, the Mets extended their lead to 2-0 in un-2022-Mets fashion, with a Mark Canha homer on a first-pitch Fried fastball. Believe it or not, though, that was all the scoring for the Mets. The rest of the game was pretty much all Braves from this point on.
Austin Riley got Atlanta on the board by scooping a Bassitt slider down in the zone and serving it into left-center for his seventh homer of the year. He is a very strong human.
The Braves got two on in the fifth, but couldn’t score. The sequence was one of the weirder ones the Braves have had this season: with two outs and a 2-2 couint, Bassitt had Dansby Swanson struck out, but the pitch was ruled a ball, and Swanson ended up walking. A few pitches later, Bassitt hit Acuña with a sinker that ran too far inside, bringing up Matt Olson. In a 2-1 count, Olson somehow inside-outed an inside cutter (how is that even possible?) and popped it up to third, leaving the Braves trailing by a run.
Relief and release came in the sixth, though. Riley started the frame by actually getting a hard-hit grounder through the infield for a hit. After a weird force-pop-out-thing from Marcell Ozuna, Albies then set up d’Arnaud’s first script-flip of the game by shooting a weak grounder the other way. That brought up d’Arnaud, who Mets’d the Mets:
0-2 count, slider so egregiously off the plate and low that it’s probably a “waste” pitch (check back tomorrow), 62.5 mph off the bat, and a hit probability below 60 percent? Yeah, that’s a game-tying double, friends. Adam Duvall followed with a sacrifice fly to center that ended the inning when d’Arnaud was thrown out trying to move up to third, but the Braves now had the lead, and they wouldn’t relinquish it.
Fried, meanwhile, went into “mow down the Mets” mode. He retired five in a row after Canha’s homer, gave up a bunt single, and then retired the next six batters. He finished his night with a 6/0 K/BB ratio and the homer allowed in six innings of work; Bassitt pitched seven and had an 8/1 K/BB ratio with a hit-by-pitch and a homer allowed of his own.
In the bottom of the seventh, Tyler Matzek got two quick outs, and then foundered. He walked Jeff McNeil, hit James McCann with a pitch that bounced before it plunked him (?), and then issued another free pass on five pitches. That was it for Matzek as Collin McHugh came on to face Canha, which resulted in the most anticlimactic bases-loaded, two-out, one-run game situation I can remember: McHugh threw Canha two cutters down the middle, which Canha took. He wasted a slider in the dirt, and then threw him a third cutter down the middle, which Canha hopelessly waved at. Threat over, one-run lead intact. It would soon grow.
Trevor May was the first guy out of the bullpen gates for the Mets following Bassitt, and he immediately walked Olson to start his night. With two outs, Albies followed with an infield single, setting up d’Arnaud’s second dunker:
This one wasn’t as silly as the first in some ways, as it was hit 85 mph and on a pitch that was inside but not egregiously so... but it had a hit probability below 30 percent. Still, the lead was now 5-2.
A.J. Minter worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and after the Braves struck out thrice in a row to Adam Ottavino, Kenley Jansen slammed the door in the ninth, working around a one-out single.
One thing that happened in this game was that Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a ball with a 1.000 (rounded) xBA, that was (of course) an out. Brandon Nimmo made a nice jumping catch on it, but again, it was a 1.000 xBA out. It is the first out with a hit probability of over 99.1 percent this season. Welcome to 2022, Acuña!
Anyway, the Braves started this series off on the right foot, and will try to make even more hay in tomorrow’s doubleheader. At least for tonight, though, things look a little better than they did yesterday, and d’Arnaud out-Metsed the Mets. Yay.