ATLANTA — Mickey Callaway’s words never lost their calm inflection. He didn’t raise his voice or sputter. But please, he said, sounding like a kindly kindergarten teacher, don’t let that fool you.
“We’ve hit rock bottom in the last few days and we have to come out of it,” he said before Wednesday night’s game, the last in a brutal road trip.
“I’m sure the fans would love to see people throwing stuff. We’re not happy with what’s going on, but just because we try to approach it the right way, doesn’t mean we’re accepting it. We’re [angry]. There’s a reason you lose, and it’s not just bad luck and one inning. We haven’t been playing the game right.”
It was as strong a language as the Mets’ manager has used publicly, and for one night, words led to actions. Jason Vargas (2-3) pitched masterfully, the offense did just enough, and the middle infield saved the day, as the Mets defeated the Braves, 4-1, at SunTrust Park. After a cavalcade of misadventures, the Mets somehow leave Atlanta with a series split and home on the horizon.
The Braves threatened in the eighth, when Jeurys Familia allowed back-to-back singles with one out. With runners at the corners, Nick Markakis hit a ball up the middle that was stopped by a diving Amed Rosario, who flipped to Asdrubal Cabrera, who made the barehanded grab and threw a bullet to first to keep it at 3-1.
“That’s SportsCenter Top 10 right there,” said Brandon Nimmo, who tacked on an RBI double in the ninth, his eighth extra-base hit in as many games.
Robert Gsellman pitched a perfect ninth for the second save of his career.
“It’s the play that we’ve been lacking,” Callaway said of Rosario’s gem. “It was probably the difference in the game. He’s going to have his ups and downs because he’s a young player but his ups are probably much better than he’s ever been. Those are the times you look at to determine, ‘Hey, this kid is going to be a really good player.’ ”
Vargas, pitching on only three days’ rest after offering to contribute from the bullpen Monday, had one of his best starts of the season. He threw 65 pitches — limited because of his recent work — and allowed two hits and one intentional walk, with two strikeouts in five innings.
The Mets scored off Julio Teheran (4-3) in the third on Adrian Gonzalez’s double. In the seventh, Nimmo’s bloop single drove in Rosario, making it 2-0.
Tim Peterson, whom the Mets called up Wednesday in a flurry of roster moves, debuted in relief of Vargas. Peterson retired the side in order in the sixth before making a single mistake in the seventh. Johan Camargo pulled a low fastball into the bleachers in right to cut the lead to 2-1. The Mets got it right back in the eighth on Gonzalez’s single, his second RBI of the night, to go up 3-1.
The Mets executed on many of the things Callaway pointed out. They allowed no leadoff walks — a sticking point — and had a clean night defensively. Callaway said he’s had team meetings, but hadn’t had one in probably five days.
“I haven’t slept well in a week,” he said. “A team meeting is not going to pull us out of this. We’re not going to have a team meeting to play better defense. You can’t have a team meeting and not walk the leadoff batter. The guys know what they have to do. They just have to go out there and do it.”
On Wednesday, they finally did.