ATLANTA -- The Braves are everything the Mets are not.
Their roster rich in talent, they busted out of the gates this season to take the lead in the National League East. Their outfield features a pair of All-Star brothers in B.J. and Justin Upton. Their bullpen features perhaps the nastiest collection of arms in the game.
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"Hands down, they have the best bullpen in baseball," Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "I think everybody knows that."
Yet it was the Mets who emerged with a 7-5 victory Friday night in the opener of a three-game series. The Mets did it the hard way, clawing back in the late innings before Jordany Valdespin ignited a two-run rally in the 10th.
Byrd hit a game-tying homer in the eighth off Braves lefthander Eric O'Flaherty. And when Evan Gattis responded with a go-ahead shot in the eighth off Brandon Lyon, Mets captain David Wright countered with another game-tying blast in the ninth, off ferocious Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.
"I had my eyes closed, I don't know," Wright said when asked what pitch he hit for the pivotal homer. "I think it was a fastball."
Indeed, it was a 97-mph heater, but up and over the plate. It was a rare mistake for Kimbrel, the leader of the Braves' bullpen. Neither he nor O'Flaherty had allowed a homer this season.
"To come in here, have the lead, lose it and then come back twice is pretty special," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's a pretty big win for us."
John Buck and Lucas Duda homered to give the Mets an early 3-0 lead. But Mets righty Shaun Marcum, in only his second start since coming off the disabled list, allowed three runs and lasted only 41/3 innings. Braves starter Mike Minor retired 18 straight after allowing a solo shot to Duda in the second. But the Mets caught a break when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pulled Minor after seven innings.
With the score tied after homers by Byrd and Wright, Mets closer Bobby Parnell squelched a rally in the bottom of the ninth, stranding the winning run at third base by getting Justin Upton to ground out.
In the 10th, Valdespin drew a pinch-hit walk and stole second. "That's my game, stay on base, steal the base and put pressure on the other team," Valdespin said.
Braves reliever Jordan Walden hit Mike Baxter, then allowed an RBI single to Ruben Tejada. Daniel Murphy followed with a run-scoring single off lefthander Luis Avilan to give the Mets an insurance run.
Jeurys Familia's perfect 10th capped a wild finish in which the Mets found themselves two outs away from losing their seventh game in eight contests -- only to escape.
"We're playing some close ballgames right now," Parnell said. "So if we can start pulling these out, we'll get some more confidence in those close ballgames, start stretching them out a little bit. It's big to win games like that."