Bartolo Colon throws a gem as Mets blank Braves
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ATLANTA -- It didn't come easily for the Mets.
Travis d'Arnaud finally emerged from his season-opening, 0-for-16 slump with two hits, Ruben Tejada knocked in two runs and scored twice, and righthander Bartolo Colon delivered seven shutout innings.
But only after surviving Jose Valverde's tightrope act in the ninth inning did the Mets come away with a 4-0 victory over the Braves Tuesday night.
"My team won, that's what happened, that's it, you know what I mean?'' Valverde said. "There's nothing you can do. Bartolo threw innings, [Kyle] Farnsworth threw one, I threw the ninth. Game over.''
After inheriting a four-run lead, Valverde made a throwing error to extend the inning, eventually bringing Jason Heyward to the plate with the bases loaded. With the count full, Heyward lifted a fly ball that sent centerfielder Juan Lagares to the warning track to make the catch.
The Mets breathed a sigh of relief, emerging with a victory to begin a grueling nine-game trip before a near-capacity crowd that honored Hank Aaron 40 years to the day he hit homer No. 715 to pass Babe Ruth.
"Exciting ninth inning,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But we won.''
The effort began with Colon, who bounced back from a so-so debut to shut down a powerful Braves lineup. The Mets caught their first glimpse of the pitcher who won 18 games last year for the A's.
The righthander used a simple but effective formula, pelting the strike zone with well-placed fastballs. Unlike his start last week, he maintained full command throughout. Perhaps the matchup helped.
In his Mets debut, the Nationals forced Colon to work deep into counts But the Braves obliged by swinging away. That tactic punishes pitchers who miss their spots, but it plays into the hands of strike-throwers such as Colon.
"I felt great,'' Colon said through a translator. "Especially when you face a team as tough as Atlanta, you prepare to be very tough mentally. That's how I felt, I prepared very, very well for this game.''
The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the third when Tejada hustled to score on Aaron Harang's wild pitch. In the seventh, the Mets made it 3-0 on RBI singles by Tejada and Eric Young Jr. In the eighth, a video review opened the door for Tejada's two-out RBI single that made it 4-0.
Farnsworth worked the eighth ahead of Valverde, who made things interesting.
The uprising began with Justin Upton's leadoff single. Dan Uggla lined a one-hopper that bounced past the glove of third baseman David Wright, giving the Braves two on with nobody out.
Relief appeared near when Evan Gattis hit into a 6-5 forceout, and the threat appeared finished when Valverde got a comebacker from Andrelton Simmons that should have been a game-ending double play. Instead, Valverde threw wide to second, loading the bases.
Pinch hitter Gerald Laird popped out, giving Heyward one more chance. Down to his last strike, he stayed alive after taking a pitch that appeared to catch the outside corner. With the count full, Heyward's fly ball to Lagares finally ended it.
"He's out,'' Valverde said. "No matter how.''