If this first series is any indication, the nineteen contests between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves in 2019 will be entertainment of the highest order. Taut pitching and clutch hitting have been the touchstones for New York here in the early going.
A day after Pete Alonso announced himself — loudly — to the reigning National League East champs, he found himself out of the lineup against rookie righthander Kyle Wright. Wright was opposed by local kid Zack Wheeler, who always seems to pitch well in front of the home folks. He had a little bit of a rough go of it in the first. After striking out Ender Inciarte leading off the game, Wheeler loaded the base on a single by Josh Donaldson and walks to Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna, Jr. Nick Markakis lifted a sacrifice fly to left and the Braves had a 1-0 lead. The Mets struck back quickly in the top of the second, though. With one out, Dominic Smith — getting Alonso’s at-bats tonight — pulled a base hit to right. After Keon Broxton struck out, Brandon Nimmo barreled up a low-90s fastball from Wright and sent it over the center field fence. Wright battled his control after that. He gave up a pair of two-out walks in the third and a leadoff pass to Broxton to start the fourth. Broxton promptly stole second, his fourth of the year. Nimmo then dropped a surprise bunt for a base hit, putting men on first and third. Wheeler surprisingly swung away and popped out to short left. That brought up Jeff McNeil in a big spot. He knocked both runners in with a rope to right, one hop off the wall for a double. He took third on the throw home and scored when slumping Robinson Cano hit a hard two-out double to right. Michael Conforto followed that with another pulled two-bagger to widen the lead to 6-1. Wilson Ramos was walked intentionally and Wright left the mound having thrown 25 pitches in the inning and 77 on the night. Johnny Venters came on to face Smith, who drew an unintentional walk. That brought Broxton around again, this time with the bases loaded, but he struck out to end it.
Now it was up to Wheeler to hold a five-run lead for another three innings at least. He was mostly up to the task. Wheeler walked Freeman with two outs in the fifth and Acuna boomed a long double off the top of the right field fence, Freeman scoring the Braves’ second run easily. In six innings, Wheeler ended up surrendering six hits, walking three and striking out eight. With both Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz unavailable on this night, it would fall to Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo to preserve the lead. They acquitted themselves most admirably. Wilson took over in the seventh and retired Atlanta in order. In the top of the eighth, Nimmo led off with a double to right. Alonso finally got into the game to pinch hit for Wilson and busted his bat popping out. Nimmo was left at third, when McNeil grounded out and Amed Rosario struck out. Lugo came on in the eighth and gave up a bloop single to Acuna leading off. Markakis struck out and Dansby Swanson hit into a force play. Ozzie Albies rolled back to Lugo for out number three. After the Mets went out in the ninth — despite another walk to Ramos and a double by Conforto — Lugo struck out Tyler Flowers, got pinch hitter Johan Comargo on a grounder to second and Inciarte the same way to send the Mets to their hotel happy.
It’ll be Jason Vargas against Sean Newcomb tomorrow night from Cobb County.