ATLANTA — They could have been so close.
The Mets were flirting with a series win over the Braves and, even beyond that, a chance to prove that this season isn’t sunk quite yet. Who knows what could have happened after that — maybe a good performance against the Cubs, or potentially a nice little run to end the first half and finally inject this season with some relevance.
Now, to be clear, a single loss to the Braves — 7-2 this time at SunTrust Park — won’t be responsible for sinking this entire campaign. But it certainly doesn’t help, especially when it came down to not doing the little (and much bigger) things that winning teams do. The Mets could have been close, but Wednesday night — a night of bad baserunning and self-defeat — worked to prove how far away they really were.
After dropping two of three to the NL East-leading Braves, the Mets sank back to four games under .500, and, with the Nationals winning, down to fourth place in the NL East — the lowest they’ve been all year.
“Our record is what our record is,” Mickey Callaway said. “We’re concerned about what we’re doing. It’s not fun to be in fourth place. No, we don’t want to be there.”
The Mets and Braves were tied at 2 in the top of the sixth when the Mets set the table for a big inning and then ran themselves out of it. J.D. Davis and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back, one out singles, putting runners on first and second off lefthander Max Fried. Wilson Ramos followed with a single to right, and despite the hit not going all that far and Davis not being all that fast, third-base coach Gary DiSarcina sent him home. Charlie Culberson’s throw came in plenty of time and Davis tried his best – even leapfrogging over catcher Tyler Flowers — but Flowers applied the tag to his soaring foot to quash the rally. Amed Rosario struck out to end any threat.
“It’s definitely my decision. I’d do it all over again,” DiSarcina said. “It’s a utility player. He’s got a good, strong arm but our reports [said] a bit inaccurate. He made a great play, a great throw. That’s what big leaguers do. We’re going to be aggressive. It’s a tie game. Anything that’s not hard hit, we’re going to go.”
The Braves saw the opportunity and took it, pouncing on Steven Matz in the bottom of the inning. Longtime Mets killer Freddie Freeman had a leadoff single and Josh Donaldson then deposited Matz’s 80-mph curveball to the seats in left to give the Braves a 4-2 lead. Austin Riley doubled and came home on Ozzie Albies; double, ending Matz’s night.
Matz, who once again experienced first-inning struggles, went five innings plus four batters, allowing five runs and six hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
“We just gotta keep going,” Matz said. “This one was on me. It was a big game.”
The Mets started off the night well enough, when Jeff McNeil lined a leadoff double to right, stole third base and scored on Michael Conforto’s groundout.
But in the bottom of the first, Dansby Swanson nearly missed a home run, and then Freeman didn’t. Swanson lined a sinker just to the right of the foul pole and then singled; Freeman, with one out, followed by getting all of a 94-mph sinker, blasting it the opposite way to left to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. It was an old tale for Matz, who has allowed 22 first-inning homers in his career, and eight this year. His first-inning ERA this season is 9.69.
The Mets tied the score in the fourth on Rosario’s RBI double, though he was thrown out stretching to end the inning.
It didn't necessarily seem as if it would cost the Mets too much. But that’s what it’s come to: a series of little things that eventually lead to a lost game and maybe a lost season.