ATLANTA — An apparent hallmark of the Mets’ early-season success materialized again Friday night: a weakly struck game-winning hit from a slumping Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes grounded a two-out single through the right side of the infield in the 12th inning to lift the Mets to a 5-3 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park. It was his third game-winning hit of the month after similar dramatic moments in Washington and Miami, and this one — like the others — was hit poorly, just 76.1 mph off the bat.
“Big hits and three wins means a lot to a team,” Mickey Callaway said. “Probably more than if he was hitting .340. So I guess we’ll take it and I think he will, too.”
Cespedes was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts before that at-bat. He has struck out more than twice as often as he has gotten a hit: 40.5 percent of his plate appearances compared to 19 percent. “I just wanted to hit the ball,” he said through an interpreter. “That’s what I did.”
Robert Gsellman became the first pitcher to earn a win and score the winning run in extra innings since Matt Albers did so for the White Sox in June 2016 — against the Mets at Citi Field.
To begin the 12th, Callaway was going to try to squeeze another two or three innings out of Gsellman, who already had struck out three in two scoreless innings. He sent him to the plate to hit, and Josh Ravin’s fastball clipped his jersey.
“Just get on base any way,” Gsellman said. “Walk. Maybe a little dribbler through the hole. Fortunately, he hit me.”
Callaway decided not to pinch run for Gsellman because he is athletic enough to handle himself on the bases. Gsellman, who joked that he is the fastest pitcher on the team before backing off and adjusting that to merely one of the fastest, scored from second on Cespedes’ hit, and Asdrubal Cabrera added an RBI double off the rightfield wall.
Jeurys Familia pitched a perfect bottom of the inning to finish the win for the Mets (14-5) and a sharp night for the bullpen: six shutout innings, one hit, three walks, six strikeouts.
The Mets scored twice in the third against lefthander Sean Newcomb as Amed Rosario doubled to right-center to drive in Tomas Nido and scored on Michael Conforto’s sacrifice fly to left.
Noah Syndergaard was OK. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings, striking out six and walking none.
The defense didn’t help. In the fourth, Jay Bruce started in before Ryan Flaherty’s line drive flew over his head for a two-out RBI double. In the sixth, Cespedes nearly threw out Nick Markakis at second on his double, but Cabrera couldn’t nab the throw on a short hop. A wild pitch and a sacrifice fly later, the score was tied.
Syndergaard’s game underscores the great expectations he carries into each start. Had Steven Matz produced that line Wednesday, there would have been no reason for Callaway to pinch hit for him early. Had Matt Harvey done so Thursday, it would have minimized the questions about his tenuous hold on a rotation spot.
But with Syndergaard, the official standards for a quality start — at least six innings, three or fewer earned runs — don’t quite seem to be enough. He has two quality starts in five outings this season. His numbers on the year are strong: 3.29 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 7.8 strikeouts per walk.
“I’m kind of disappointed and frustrated, and really have been [in his] throwing ever since the season started,” Syndergaard said. “I feel like I’ve had some pretty dominating stuff, but I haven’t really been doing much dominating, to be honest.”