Mets allow four in ninth but hold on to beat Braves

Jon Niese pitches against the Braves. (August 12,

Jon Niese pitches against the Braves. (August 12, 2012) (Credit: David Pokress)

Terry Collins probably nibbled off his nails watching the Mets' bullpen nearly cough up a five-run lead in the ninth inning against the Braves Sunday night.

"I think I'm Jay's age right now," he said after the Mets' 6-5 win at Citi Field, referring to Jay Horwitz, the team's 67-year-old vice president of media relations. "And if I look like it, kill me."

Collins and starter Jon Niese, who pitched eight strong innings, had to hold their breath as the Mets' bullpen allowed four runs in the ninth on national television, something Niese admitted wasn't easy to watch as he sat in the dugout.

"I can't sugarcoat that by any means," Niese said. "But they got the job done, and that's all that matters."

The Mets entered the ninth with a 6-1 lead, but by the time Jason Heyward struck out on a pitch in the dirt and catcher Rob Johnson barely threw him out at first to end the game, the Braves had four runs in, the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second.

After lefthanded reliever Josh Edgin allowed two walks and hit Freddie Freeman with a pitch to load the bases with two outs, Frank Francisco walked pinch hitter Juan Francisco and Michael Bourn to cut the Mets' lead to 6-3.

Then Martin Prado laced a two-run double down the rightfield line to make it 6-5, forcing Collins to yank Francisco and bring in Jon Rauch.

He retired Heyward to end it -- but it was a close play at first after the strikeout, and Ike Davis didn't have an easy throw to catch, either.

Crisis averted.

Barely.

"I just didn't get the job done," Francisco said. "Everything was working. They gave me a good fight. They wore me out a little bit and I'm a little bit out of shape and I just got tired."

Davis knocked in two runs, Jordany Valdespin smashed a solo homer and David Wright, Ruben Tejada and Andres Torres each knocked in a run for the Mets, who salvaged the final game of a 2-4 homestand.

The Mets managed to get some clutch two-out hits, the very thing that was their offensive staple this season when things were going right.

Tejada's two-out RBI single in the second gave the Mets a 3-1 lead and Davis' two-out RBI single in the fifth made it 4-1.

Valdespin hit a leadoff homer off Braves starter Ben Sheets (4-2, 2.13 ERA) in the sixth, and Torres' RBI single in the eighth off Cristhian Martinez proved to be the winning run.

The Mets had five runs and eight hits off Sheets, who entered with a 1.41 ERA and had allowed more than one earned run in only one of his previous five outings.

Niese (9-6, 3.67) yielded only one run -- a solo homer by Freeman -- and six hits, striking out six and walking two. He still was strong in the game's late innings, as evidenced by the 90-mph four-seamer that he blew past Heyward for Atlanta's final out in the eighth inning.

Overall, of the 106 pitches he threw, 71 were strikes.

But these are the Mets, so Niese essentially had to hold his breath in the ninth.

"Before the game, Dan [Warthen, the pitching coach], Rob [Johnson] and I were talking about focusing on every pitch, taking my time," Niese said. "I think we did that. I think Rob called a great game, and when I needed to execute a pitch, I was able to focus and execute the pitch."

At least the Mets have something to feel good about now as they hit the road for a six-game trip to Cincinnati and Washington.

"We needed this," Collins said. "We have not played well. I'm not making any excuses. We have not played well on any side of the ball. So this win helped. I don't care how it came about. I'm glad to get it."

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