If the Mets’ three-game sweep of the Indians to start this homestand was the high point of their recent run, then welcome to the low point. They hope.
Dallas Keuchel threw seven shutout innings and Josh Donaldson hit a pair of home runs as the first-place Braves completed a three-game Players’ Weekend sweep of the Mets with a 2-1 victory before 30,170 at Citi Field.
Keuchel (5-5), the former AL Cy Young award winner who signed with the Braves in June, has thrown 13 shutout innings against the Mets this season.
Donaldson, the former AL MVP who signed a one-year, $23-million contract with Atlanta in the offseason, slugged solo home runs off Steven Matz in the second and Paul Sewald in the seventh. Donaldson has hit nine of his 32 home runs this season against the Mets.
The Braves have won eight in a row. The Mets, who had won five in a row before Atlanta came to town, remained two games behind Chicago for the second wild-card spot.
The Braves are 11-5 against the Mets this season.
“We have to figure it out,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “They’ve beaten up on us a little bit and we’ve been in a lot of the games . . . They’re a great team, but we have to do better.”
The Mets are off Monday before the Cubs – another wild card contender – come in for a three-game series.
“This is just a little speed bump, what’s going on right now,” J.D. Davis said. “Atlanta’s a tough team. We’re just going to recharge. We literally didn’t get that much sleep the last couple of days with that double rain delay [Thursday against the Indians] and the extra innings [Friday against Atlanta]. We’re just kind of drained. No excuse, but we’ve got the day off tomorrow, so we’ll recharge and gather our thoughts and get ready to go.”
Hard-luck loser Matz (8-8) allowed one run in six innings. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out six. Matz was dealing with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but still threw 102 pitches.
Donaldson put the Braves on the board with a high drive to left leading off the second. He went deep to right-center leading off the seventh to make it 2-0.
The Mets nearly tied it in the fourth when Davis sent a high drive to left that looked quite similar to Donaldson’s first home run. Adam Duvall caught it a step from the wall.
Davis’ drive was one of only two balls the Mets hit in the air against Keuchel, who allowed four hits, walked three, hit a batter and struck out seven. Keuchel induced the Mets to hit into three double plays.
The Mets only got one baserunner as far as third off Keuchel. Michael Conforto led off the second with a single to left and took second when Duvall bobbled the ball for an error.
Davis walked, but Todd Frazier grounded into a 4-4-3 double play with Conforto moving to third. Juan Lagares walked, but catcher Rene Rivera, in his first game for the Mets this season, grounded out to Keuchel to end the inning.
The Mets tried to rally in the ninth. Pete Alonso led off with a double into the leftfield corner against Mark Melancon. After Conforto grounded to third, Davis lined a single to center to send Alonso to third.
Frazier hit the first pitch to third for a 5-4 force out as Alonso scored. Frazier beat the relay throw to first to keep the game alive.
Wilson Ramos, who had an 18-game hitting streak, hit for Lagares and singled to right to make it 19 games and send the potential tying run to second.
But pinch hitter Joe Panik grounded out to first to end it. The Mets were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, continuing a trend that began in Friday’s excruciating 2-1, 14-inning defeat, when they were 0-for-7. They went 3-for-10 in Saturday’s 9-5 loss.
“We had opportunities all weekend,” Frazier said. “We just didn’t, as a team, collectively hitting-wise, we did not come through at the opportune times.”