ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves survived another near-meltdown by the back end of their bullpen in the ninth after the New York Mets’ best reliever gave up five runs in the seventh.
Tyler Flowers drove in a tiebreaking run with an infield hit, and Atlanta scored five runs off Seth Lugo in the seventh and survived a ninth-inning scare in a 6-4 win over New York on Wednesday night.
The first-place Braves (72-50) are 22 games over .500 for the first time since 2013. That made manager Brian Snitker happy with the win “no matter how you get it.”
Snitker could overlook the ninth-inning struggles by Mark Melancon, the team’s latest closer.
The Mets have lost three straight, including the first two of the three-game series with Atlanta, after winning 15 of 16 to move up in the NL wild-card chase. The loss left the Mets three games behind Chicago in the race for the second wild card.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “It’s not the end of the world.”
New York scored two runs in the ninth off Melancon. Amed Rosario had four hits, including a run-scoring single off Melancon. Pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme added another run-scoring single before loading the bases.
A lengthy review overturned the on-field call that Guillorme was out at second on Pete Alonso’s grounder to Ozzie Albies. Shortstop Johan Camargo dropped the throw from Albies for an error, leaving the bases loaded with one out.
Melancon struck out Wilson Ramos before left-hander Jerry Blevins struck out Michael Conforto for his first save.
J.D. Davis gave New York a 2-1 lead with a two-run single in the seventh, when Steven Matz had his second bloop single to right field.
Matz was removed by Callaway after throwing only 79 pitches and allowing only two hits in six innings. Matz retired 14 consecutive batters before being lifted.
The move backfired when the Braves scored five runs on six singles off Lugo and Luis Avilán in the seventh. All five runs were charged to Lugo (5-3), who recorded only one out.
Callaway defended the decision to take Matz out of the game with right-handed hitters Josh Donaldson and Adam Duvall set to open the seventh.
“We have the best reliever in baseball sitting down there in Seth Lugo,” Callaway said. “… I’ll make that move 100 times out of 100. That’s the right move in my mind.”
Asked if he was tired after running the bases, Matz said “I felt pretty good. … It’s definitely a humid day, but I have enough time to catch my breath and cool off and stuff.”
After Lugo walked Donaldson to open the inning, the Braves had four straight singles. Ender Inciarte’s bases-loaded hit to left field tied the game. Flowers then hit a grounder which first baseman Alonso couldn’t snag while running toward second. Lugo was late to cover first.
Pinch-hitter Matt Joyce, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Albies also drove in runs in the big inning.
Lugo said he was “just a little unlucky tonight” though he said “walking the leadoff hitter, that hurts.”
Inciarte drove in two runs with two hits.
Dallas Keuchel threw six scoreless innings before the Mets’ two-run seventh against Sean Newcomb and Chris Martin (1-1).
The loss came after the Mets placed All-Star Jeff McNeil on the 10-day injured list with a mild left hamstring strain.
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 12 minutes by rain.
Mets: This is McNeil’s second IL stint with a left hamstring injury this season. He also was on the IL from May 23 to June 4. … OF Brandon Nimmo (neck), who has been out since May 21, could begin a rehab assignment in about a week.
Braves: Flowers needed attention from a trainer for a cut on his head after he was hit by Pete Alonso’s bat on Alonso’s swing and miss in the seventh. Flowers remained in the game.
Rubén Tejada, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, was held without a hit as he started at second base. Callaway said he plans to have Tejada start against left-handers in a platoon with Joe Panik. Tejada, 29, played with the Mets from 2010 through 2015.
With runners on first and third in the sixth, the Mets couldn’t score. Todd Frazier’s pop fly into shallow right field was caught by first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was running down the line with his back to the infield.
Marcus Stroman (6-11, 3.07) will face the Braves for the first time with the Mets in Thursday night’s final game of the series. With Toronto, Stroman was 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in two starts against the Braves. Julio Teheran (7-7, 3.35) is 10-8 with a 2.68 ERA in 28 career games against the Mets, including a 1-1 record and 6.08 ERA in three starts this season.
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