|Steven Matz facing Ozzie Albies. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Atlanta Braves completed their sweep of Mets with a 2-1 win on Sunday at Citi Field.
Atlanta has now won eight in a row to improve to 80-52 and open up a 12-game lead on the Mets in the National League East division race. The Mets dropped to 67-63 and are now solely going for the Wild Card, with one of the teams they're battling in that race, the Chicago Cubs, coming to Citi Field for three games starting Tuesday night.
The series finale featured a battle of two premier left-handers, as Steven Matz of the Mets matched up with Atlanta's Dallas Keuchel, and their performances mirrored each other.
Matz retired Atlanta in the first, and Keuchel did the same basically after getting Pete Alonso to ground into a double play after he plunked Jeff McNeil.
In the second, Josh Donaldson led off for Atlanta, and he hit a towering fly ball to left field that just kept going and eventually landed in the seats in the corner for a solo home run to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead.
Adam Duvall followed with a double, and then Matz retired Adeiny Hechavarria, Charlie Culberson, and Tyler Flowers to prevent further damage.
Keuchel also ran into trouble in the second when Michael Conforto led off with a single to left, which bounced off Duvall and allowed him to reach second.
J.D. Davis followed with a walk, but Keuchel then got Todd Frazier to hit into a double play. After a walk to Lagares, Rene Rivera (in his first game back with the Mets) bounced one back to the pitcher to end the inning.
Matz kept the momentum he began at the end of the second going and wound up retiring 11 in a row until a walk to Flowers in the fifth.
Keuchel matched him by retiring seven straight, which included a bomb to the left field corner by Davis in the fourth that just fell short of the fence.
A Frazier single to lead off the fifth. He then was erased when Lagares hit into a double play. After a walk to Rivera, he got Matz to fly out to right field, just the second fly ball out of the game to that point.
In the top of the sixth, Amed Rosario worked Keuchel and beat out a dribbler to second base. McNeil followed with another challenging at-bat, and he lined one back to Keuchel, who turned and got the force at second base. Keuchel then struck out Alonso looking and Conforto swinging to get out of it.
Matz did not come back for the seventh, as he was at 102 pitches. His final line was superb: 6 innings, 2 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts.
"Matzy was fantastic," Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said. "Continues to keep up a great tempo, a great pace in between pitches, and executes almost every pitch lately, so it's been fun to watch. He's been great."
On if he was tempted to send Matz back out for the seventh, Callaway said, "He's been battling a blister the last few starts, and it was just so sore, he came in after the fifth, and was like probably one more, so it was pretty irritated."
Paul Sewald came on for the Mets, and he was greeted by a blast from Donaldson into the seats in right-center field, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead.
Donaldson now has nine home runs against the Mets this season, the most since Dave Kingman in 1979 (via @MLBStats). This was his second two-homer game against the Mets in 11 days, as he did it in a Braves' 10-8 win over them in Atlanta on August 15.
Keuchel was still on for Atlanta in the bottom of the seventh, and Davis started it off with a seeing-eye single up the middle.
Frazier then dribbled one in front of the plate (with his bat flying down towards third, which happens often), and in perhaps the defensive play of the game, Keuchel came off the mound and fired to first to get him by a step.
Davis got into second base on the play, but it made no difference as Lagares bounced out to shortstop and Rivera struck out.
That was all for Keuchel, who allowed just four hits and three walks, and struck out seven, with just two of the 21 outs he recorded via the fly ball.
Sewald stayed on for the eighth, and he retired the final six hitters he faced after Donaldson's homer, notching four strikeouts.
Sean Newcomb came on in the eighth, and picked up where Keuchel left off, as he got pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, Rosario, and McNeil to all ground out to second, a trio of 4-3s in the scorebook.
After Justin Wilson held Atlanta in the top of the ninth, with strikeouts of Donaldson and Duvall, Mark Melancon came on to close it out for the Braves.
Alonso started it off with a double into the left field corner, and then, after Conforto grounded out, Davis dunked one into center field.
Frazier then hit a double-play ball, as Donaldson got Davis at second, but the Mets third baseman beat it out at first to keep the game alive. Alonso scored on the play to make it 2-1 Atlanta.
Callaway then sent up Wilson Ramos to pinch-hit instead of lefties Joe Panik and Luis Guillorme, and it paid off as Ramos singled to the the right side.
Panik then came up to hit for Rivera with two on and two out, and he grounded to first to end their comeback.
"They made good pitches the whole weekend," Callaway said when asked about the tough weekend his offense had. "They've been pitching great, their bullpen's been lights out lately, so we just couldn't scratch those runs together that we needed.
"It's a funny game, you know. That ball Donaldson hit (in the second inning), exact same velocity, exact same launch angle, it goes out and Davis' (in the fourth) doesn't. It was hit exactly the same.
"That was a tough series, but we have the Cubs coming in, we've got a day off to rest up, and get after the Cubs."