Jose Quintana reacts on the mound after giving up a...

Jose Quintana reacts on the mound after giving up a solo home run to Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. during the third inning on Friday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It’s no secret that the NL East doesn’t leave much room for mistakes. Not with Philadelphia and Atlanta dominating, and not with Bryce Harper on one team and reigning MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. on the other.

That small margin for error was appropriately highlighted on Friday night when Mets lefthander Jose Quintana made three big mistake pitches in a single inning, gave up well over 1,200 feet worth of home runs and put the game out of reach of an offense that was able to do a whole lot of nothing against Charlie Morton.

The result was a rain-delayed 4-2 loss to Atlanta at Citi Field and yet another reminder that the Mets have a bit of work to do if they’re going to be a credible threat to the big fish in the turbulent pond that is their division.

It doesn’t help that this was the first of seven games against Atlanta (23-12) and Philadelphia (27-12) — part of a punishing stretch of 13 straight and 26 games in 27 days.

“They’re all important — every game is important,” Carlos Mendoza said after his team fell to 18-19. “Obviously, we’re playing two good teams that are in our division, but the way we treat it is that we’ve got to go out every day and get Ws. We didn’t do that today and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

Said Pete Alonso, “Every game is just as important as the next. Obviously, yeah, it would be great to play well against these guys, but we want to play well against everybody. It’s a long season and we want to be able to grab one of those playoff spots by the end of it.”

Atlanta did all its damage against Quintana with two outs in the third. Acuna victimized his elevated sinker, driving it 461 feet to center — far past the home run apple — for his third homer of the year. Two pitches later, Ozzie Albies followed suit, getting around on a letter-high fastball and lifting it over the leftfield wall. Quintana then walked Austin Riley, prompting a quick trip to the mound. After the visit, he elevated another sinker and Matt Olson hit it 396 feet to right for a 4-0 lead.

 

The biggest mistake came on that flat sinker to Olson, Quintana said.

“It wasn’t good,” he said. “After two outs, the game changed. I think it was a couple of mistakes . . . a couple pitches were flat — not bad choices, just flat. And it’s frustrating.”

Quintana (1-4, 5.44 ERA) struck out three and allowed four runs, six hits and two walks in five innings. It wasn’t quite the rebound he was looking for after giving up eight runs in 2 2⁄3 innings last week against the Rays.

Morton (3-0) was pulled after the seventh, having thrown 99 pitches and allowed three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

The Mets had only three runners advance past second base. Other than Francisco Lindor’s seventh-inning homer, which cut the Mets’ deficit to 4-1, they didn’t show much life until the ninth. Starling Marte walked against Raisel Iglesias, took second on defensive indifference and scored on Alonso’s two-out single. Representing the tying run at the plate, J.D. Martinez tattooed a fastball down the leftfield line that veered foul before flying out to centerfield to end it.

The hit was Alonso’s second of the night. “I feel right there,” he said after coming into the day hitting .212. “I feel super in control and on time with my body, so it feels really nice . . . I’m just really glad I was able to get some help from [teammates and coaches] because sometimes you just need a different perspective to be able to solve an issue.”

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