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Mets drop fourth straight as Michael Wacha, lineup struggle vs. Braves

Mets starting pitcher Michael Wacha works in the

Mets starting pitcher Michael Wacha works in the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Atlanta.  Credit: AP/John Bazemore

Give the Mets credit for this: At least this one wasn’t soul-crushing.

As opposed to the agonizing, blown-lead, late-rallies-falling-short sort of games of recent days, their 7-1 loss to the Braves on Saturday night was mostly normal and involved minimal stress — because it looked over early.

Michael Wacha allowed five runs in the first two innings and the lineup never offered much of a rebuttal as the Mets (3-6) dropped their fourth straight game.

Might manager Luis Rojas hold a team meeting?

“There’s times for meetings,” he said. “Right now we’re not in that phase. We are meeting individually with guys.”

As part of a frustrating night for Mets hitters, Yoenis Cespedes (.161) went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and five men left on base. Wilson Ramos (.179) was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and four men left on base.

After Pete Alonso (.200) fanned for the second time, he returned to the dugout and repeatedly banged his bat against the bat rack.

“He wants to do so much out there,” Rojas said. “You know how much he cares. He’s been working really hard.”

Atlanta righthander Touki Toussaint — making his first start in place of the suddenly cut Mike Foltynewicz — tossed four scoreless innings. He worked around three walks and three hits and struck out five. Josh Tomlin followed with 2 1/3 perfect frames.

Wacha was ineffective. He needed 97 pitches to grind through four innings in which he allowed five runs, seven hits and two walks (to five strikeouts). All of those runs scored with two outs.

In the first, Marcell Ozuna blasted a two-run home run, his third of the year, all against the Mets. In the second, Atlanta tacked on runs via Tyler Flowers’ double, Ronald Acuna Jr.’s double — his first RBI of the season — and Ozzie Albies’ single.

“You want to get back in the dugout as quick as you can,” Wacha said. “Two-out hits, two-out walks — it’s just not a recipe for success whenever you’re out there. It can be frustrating.”

Said Rojas, “That last out of the inning, he just couldn’t find it. It turned into five runs. Outings like that are going to happen.”

It could have been worse for Wacha, too. He stranded two runners in the third after Ozuna and Matt Adams led off with singles. In the fourth, he hit Flowers with a pitch and walked Freddie Freeman but didn’t allow a run.

Wacha and Rojas said his changeup — so good in his Mets debut Monday against the Red Sox — wasn’t nearly as sharp this time.

“Right from the start, I felt like I was a little bit sloppy — with the mechanics, with the execution, with the intent on pitches,” Wacha said. “It’s just got to be a lot more on point with everything than what I showed out there today.”

Mets starters have averaged 4.78 innings. That combined with a 7.09 bullpen ERA — third worst in the majors — entering the day has been a map to a disastrous week-plus to open the shortened season.

In his first major-league game, Franklyn Kilome gave the rest of the relievers the night off by pitching four innings. He allowed two runs, struck out five and walked none. After Acuna homered in the sixth, Kilome retired his final nine batters.

“It was a tremendous experience for me,” he said through an interpreter. “In that first inning, emotions were kind of running wild for me. But after that first inning was over, I just told myself, ‘Relax, take it easy, this is the same thing you’ve always been doing.’ And that’s when I was able to calm down and get outs.”

Kilome, 25, was the third Mets player to make his major-league debut this season, following Andres Gimenez and David Peterson. The Mets acquired the 6-6, 175-pound Kilome in July 2018 when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies. The 25-year-old briefly pitched for Double-A Binghamton — under Rojas — but had Tommy John surgery in October 2018 that sidelined him until now.

Kilome, switching to English toward the end of his interview, said he received congratulatory texts from his mother, his brother and a bunch of friends.

“They asked me if I was excited,” he said. “I said, ‘Hell yeah.’  ”

That was but a bright spot in another murky day for the Mets. Wacha’s advice was to “flush it.”

“We need,” Rojas said, “to recover quickly.”

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