ATLANTA -- Some of the things that happen to the Mets, and much of the stuff they do to themselves, must be filed under inexplicable phenomena.
Like UFOs. Or Bigfoot.
Take what happened Thursday night at Turner Field, when after converting 19 straight opportunities, Francisco Rodriguez blew a save by allowing pinch hitter Brooks Conrad's tying two-run homer with one out in the ninth inning.
But that was only the beginning of the weirdness. It didn't really get freaky until D.J. Carrasco took the mound for the 10th.
With the winning run at third, he stared in for a sign from Ronny Paulino. Given the situation, Carrasco wanted to be sure he didn't cross up Paulino. In the process, he paused before standing to a set position.
Instantly, it was over. Plate umpire James Hoye threw his hands up to signal the balk, Diory Hernandez trotted home and the Braves flooded the field to celebrate their 9-8 victory.
"As soon as [Hoye] said it, it kind of made sense," Carrasco said. "Not too many things get to me. But to lose a game like that, man, that's hard to swallow. We had to let somebody at least hit the ball or do something else, make one team earn it. But that's what rules are for, and it happened to me tonight."
What timing. Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2008, Carrasco had not balked in 153 games, a total of 2231/3 innings before Thursday night. When asked, Carrasco believed there might have been one time in Japan after he left the Royals in 2005.
"It's a strange game at times," said Terry Collins, who agreed with the call. "You never know what's going to happen. That's why you got to play it hard. You got to be able to focus no matter how many innings you play, how many outs you got to get, because anybody can beat you."
The Mets were two outs away from moving above .500 for the first time since April 6, when they were 3-2. But after Chipper Jones torched them for five RBIs, matching his career high, the player who replaced him in the No. 3 spot landed a crushing late-inning blow.
In the ninth, Rodriguez allowed a one-out single to Jason Heyward before Conrad hit for Jones, who left with a right adductor (groin) strain. Rodriguez fell behind 1-and-0, then split the plate with a 90-mph fastball that Conrad drilled into the rightfield seats for the tying homer.
"It was just one pitch," Rodriguez said. "In that situation, with a two-run lead, that's the guy I've got to get to eliminate the big inning. But he jumped right on that pitch."
The Mets, who trailed 6-2 after four innings, tied it in the fifth on Scott Hairston's three-run shot off Scott Proctor. They took the lead in the seventh when Carlos Beltran scored on a wild pitch as Hairston struck out with the bases loaded.
In the eighth, the Mets made it 8-6 thanks to Dan Uggla's throwing error as he tried to complete a double play. That set up what was supposed to be a perfect ending to the trip. Jose Reyes had three hits, including his 12th triple, to reach the 100-hit plateau in his 66th game -- the fastest to do it in franchise history. And the Mets were on the brink of a three-game road sweep of their bitter division rival.
Then it all unraveled in a bizarre fashion that the Mets have perfected through the years. To keep that 10th inning alive for the Braves, first baseman Lucas Duda darted in front of second baseman Ruben Tejada in a botched attempt to grab a routine grounder. Instead of the third out, it gave Heyward a chance to stand at the plate and watch the winning run score. "It's kind of like surreal," Carrasco said, "and it's not fun at all."